Sri Lankan Prez orders to release Fonseka

Colombo: Giving in to US-led international pressure, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has ordered the release of his former army chief-turned-political rival Sarath Fonseka after two years of incarceration. Rajapaksa signed the papers ordering the release of 61-year-old Fonseka prior to his departure to Qatar, presidential spokesman Bandula Jayasekera told reporters here.

The papers were handed over to presidential chief of staff Gamini Senarath for onward transmission to the ministry of justice tomorrow, following which the formalities for Fonseka`s release would be completed. Rajapaksa departed last night on a state visit to Qatar. Fonseka was serving a three-year jail term, having been convicted by the High Court in what was termed as the `white flag` case.

He was charged with causing public disaffection of the state through his statement that the senior defence establishment had ordered the killing of surrendering LTTE rebels who had approached the army with white flags on the final day of the military clashes in May 2009. Expectations for Fonseka`s release had mounted when his wife Anoma said earlier this week that Rajapaksa had expressed a desire to grant him a presidential pardon.

Fonseka also received bail this week in the case where he was accused of harbouring military deserters. As the military chief, he had led the army to a crushing victory over the LTTE in 2009. But he fell out with his commander-in-chief Rajapaksa immediately after the war ended.

Rajapaksa ordered Fonseka`s detention almost immediately after he had crushed the former army chief in the presidential election of 2010. Fonseka`s release orders came a day after Sri Lankan Foreign Minister G L Peiris met with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington for talks on the island nation`s human rights record.