Holding that the former Army chief, Sarath Fonseka, cannot be tried twice for the same offence, the Colombo high court on Thursday acquitted him of all charges in the Hicorp case. The case relates to army procurement during this tenure as Army Chief.
Fonseka has been convicted in two other cases, and is serving jail terms. He has been stripped of his rank and benefits.
Earlier, in September 2010, an Army Tribunal had pronounced him guilty of the Hicorp charges. Fonseka's son-in-law Danuna Tilakaratne is also a main accused in the case and warrant has been issued for his arrest.
In July 2010, the Attorney-General had indicted Gen. Fonseka and two others with regard to 21 charges in the case. The accused included Mr. Tilakaratne, Wellington T Dehoedt and Gen. Fonseka. Dehoedt had allegedly produced fraudulent documents without any authority and agreed to supply 30 generators and 250 compasses. But they had only supplied 234 compasses to the Army. This case was earlier heard by the Mount Lavinia Chief Magistrate. The A-G later transfered to the case to the Colombo High Court.
Fonseka is already serving a term of 30 months for the procurement consequent to the Army Tribunal verdict. He appealed against the decision unsuccessfully. In November 2011, he was again convicted. This time, it was for three years, in what has come to be known as the “white flag case”.
Fonseka had told a Sri Lankan English newspaper that in May 2009, surrendering LTTE men — bearing a white flag (and hence the name of the case) — were ordered to be shot dead by Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa. The Colombo High Court found him guilty of “spreading disaffection” and sentenced him to three years in prison. In his defence, Fonseka claimed that he was misquoted in the article in the newspaper, the Sunday Leader.
Fonseka, who led the Sri Lankan forces to victory in the war against the Tamil Tigers, fell foul of President Mahinda Rajapaksa soon after he quit the Army and decided to contest the presidential elections. He was the common Opposition candidate, but could not capitalise on the fact that the Army, under his leadership, had won the Eelam War 4 against the Tamil Tigers. He lost the elections, and soon his troubles began in the form of cases slapped against him. There is also another case against him in the Court – that of harbouring Army deserters.
Fonseka's wife, Anoma, has been vocal on the streets demanding his release. The opposition parties too have been supporting her. President Mahinda Rajapaksa has made it clear that if Fonseka appeals for pardon, it will be considered. The President has the powers to pardon a convicted criminal. Fonseka, through Mrs. Anoma, has refused to seek a pardon.