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Updated: February 9, 2010 19:46 IST

Charges against Fonseka serious enough for arrest: Govt.

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Sri Lankan Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said Sarath Fonseka will be tried in a military court on charges of conspiring against the president and planning a coup while he was army chief.
Sri Lankan Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said Sarath Fonseka will be tried in a military court on charges of conspiring against the president and planning a coup while he was army chief.

Sri Lanka today claimed that charges against defeated opposition presidential candidate Sarath Fonseka were “serious enough” to warrant his arrest, raising a question mark on his participation in the forthcoming Parliamentary elections.

“The gravity of his offences will flow from the summary of evidence collected against the former general,” senior cabinet minister Keheliya Rambukwella told reporters.

The government’s clarifications came as Fonseka’s wife Anoma said her husband’s whereabouts remained “unknown” and she feared for his safety, a day after he was hauled away from his office by military personnel.

Mr. Rambukwella said the Sri Lanka’s lone four-star General may face court martial for plotting to overthrow President Mahinda Rajapaksa while still serving in the Army.

“Mr. Fonseka may face a court martial even though he is not a serving officer,” he said.

Mr. Rambukwella said the question of Mr. Fonseka’s participation in the forthcoming Parliamentary elections - which are due in April - would depend on the election laws of the country. He indicated that Mr. Fonseka would have to remain in detention till the questioning process was completed.

The spokesman said that Mr. Fonseka had committed an offence of mixing with political leaders while being a member of the Security Council of the country, which was the highest body that deals with national security.

The council discusses matters relating to the national security, Mr. Rambukwella said.

“While he was holding the membership of the Security Council, he had many connections and links dealing with various political parties and leaders who have been working against the government and that could amount to treason,” Mr. Rambukwella said.

He said Mr. Fonseka had been arrested under “Section 58 (1) of the Army Act.

“The military police last night arrested Sarath Fonseka and took him for questioning,” he said, adding further investigation would be carried out to ascertain the charges.

Meanwhile, the military spokesman, Major General Prasad Samarasinghe said Mr. Fonseka’s family had been granted unhindered access to him and that full medical assistance as required has been offered to him.

Mr. Fonseka, who was taken into military custody last night on charges of committing alleged fraudulent acts and military offences, has been provided with full security and protection under detention, he claimed.

The military spokesman said that all facilities befitting his senior rank has been given to Mr. Fonseka, who was yet to decide on a lawyer to defend him. He said Mr. Fonseka’s wife has sought access to her husband and the defence authorities are looking into it.

Mr. Samarasinghe said, any military official could still be charged for cases even after six months of his retirement, and this applied to Mr. Fonseka also.

“Summary of evidence that will be collected will be put before army lawyers, who after consultation will then forward it to the Attorney General for a final decision on whether it warranted a court martial,” he said.

But in an extraordinary step, the army issued a statement saying, “any officer/soldier who commits any offence and thereafter ceases to be a person subject to military law, may be taken into military custody and kept in military custody. He may then be tried and punished for that offence by a Court Martial under Section 57 of the Army Act.”

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