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Fonseka walks free, calls himself a victim of vendetta

Colombo, May 21: Sri Lanka's war hero Sarath Fonseka today walked free from prison a defiant man, after spending two years behind bars for crossing swords with the country's powerful President and dabbling into politics.The

PTI PTI Updated on: May 21, 2012 18:47 IST
fonseka walks free calls himself a victim of vendetta
fonseka walks free calls himself a victim of vendetta

Colombo, May 21: Sri Lanka's war hero Sarath Fonseka today walked free from prison a defiant man, after spending two years behind bars for crossing swords with the country's powerful President and dabbling into politics.




The former Army Chief, who went on from being a war hero to a presidential challenger to a convict in a short span of time, was greeted to tumultuous cheers from a large gathering of supporters as he stepped out of the prison premises.

Two years after he had taken on Mahinda Rajapaksa, Fonseka appeared out of the prison with his spirits undented and did not shy away from calling himself a victim of “vendetta”.

“I will not betray the people who stood behind me. I will save the country. The people will correct the injustice caused to me... I was a victim of a vendetta,” he declared as he stepped out of the gates of the main Welikada prison.

His release came two days after Rajapaksa signed orders to free the 61-year-old from prison where he was serving a three year term in connection with what is known as the ‘white flag' case in which he was convicted of causing public disaffection against the state for saying that the defence establishment had ordered the killings of LTTE cadres who had surrendered with white flags.

Amid loud cheers and sounds of firecrackers, Fonseka said he was undaunted by the threat of incarceration.

“I will sacrifice my life to serve the people of this country. Even if they put me in prison for 10 years, I will not stop performing my duty,” he told his jubilant supporters.

In the 28 months since he was arrested soon after losing to Rajapaksa in the 2010 presidential election, local and international pressure had mounted on the Rajapaksa government to free him.

The US has even recognised Fonseka's status as a political prisoner and US officials had time and again asked the Rajapaksa government to release him.

Rajapaksa signed the orders to release his former Army commander turned political rival on Saturday and the development came a day after Sri Lankan Foreign Minister G L Peiris met US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington for talks on the nation's human rights record.

Fonseka's journey to freedom began this morning when he was discharged from the private hospital where he was receiving treatment for a lung complication.

He was escorted by prison officials to the Supreme Court where he went through the formalities of withdrawing two appeals he had filed over two previous convictions.

The withdrawal of Fonseka's appeals were mandatory to the presidential orders coming into effect.

Fonseka, the man credited with leading the Sri Lankan Army to victory over the LTTE was under detention since February 2010, just two weeks after he unsuccessfully challenged Rajapaksa in the presidential election.

He was dragged away by the military and kept under detention until early October when he was incarcerated.

A military court found him guilty for adopting wrong procedure as head of Army's tender board and sentenced to a 30 month jail term. Thereafter he faced two more court cases.

He was condemned to a 3-year jail term in the ‘white flag case' and was facing the third case in which he was charged for harbouring military deserters.

The US State Department's 2011 human rights report branded Fonseka, who is a US green card holder, as a ‘political prisoner'.

Fonseka was elected to the parliament in the April 2010 parliamentary election from the opposition Democratic National Alliance (DNA) but was unseated following his conviction.

“I pay tribute to people who supported me. I will devote my life for the people,” Fonseka declared.

However, the former Army chief's political plans were not immediately clear. His alliance with the two opposition groups, UNP and JVP now lies in tatters.

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