Colombo, Nov 18: Jailed former Sri Lankan army chief Sarath Fonseka was today sentenced to spend three more years in prison after a court convicted him for alleging that the powerful brother of the country's President had ordered the execution of surrendering Tamil rebels.
Fonseka, a member of Parliament, was found guilty by a split 2-1 decision by the High Court in the ‘white flag' case, for violating emergency regulations by “spreading rumours and causing public disorder” in an interview with a weekly newspaper.
Fonseka, a war hero, who ran against President Mahinda Rajapaksa in the 2010 elections is already serving a 30-month sentence after a court marshal convicted him on corruption charges.
The former army chief was found guilty by the High Court for an interview in the ‘Sunday Leader' alleging that defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa had ordered the military commander Shavendra Silva to kill the white flag waving members of the LTTE who wanted to surrender before the final battle between the Tamil tigers and the army in May 2009.
The charge carried a maximum prison term of 20 years.
Fonseka, a retired four-star General, insisted in his testimony that the paper had used his comments out of context, but the court sentenced him to three year rigorous imprisonment, which means he is expected to perform manual labour.
The judgement was read out amidst a tight security around the Colombo High Court with hundreds of policemen ringing the complex and kept at bay large number of Fonseka supporters, who came to cheer the General.
The former army chief faces yet another case in which he has been accused of harbouring military deserters.
The trial at bar was conducted over 57 days with 15 witnesses. Fonseka himself made a dock statement.
Rajapaksa and Fonseka fell out after the former removed the latter from the position of the army chief to put him in charge of the joint operations command. The relationship turned sour when Fonseka pitted himself against Rajapaksa backed by the joint opposition.
The former Army chief was arrested almost immediately after Rajapaksa trounced him by over 60 per cent of the vote. Fonseka was elected to Parliament from jail when he won a seat from the Colombo district in the parliamentary election held in April 2010.