Sri Lanka high court refuses to release defeated opposition presidential candidate

[JURIST] The Sri Lankas Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a petition [JURIST report] to release opposition presidential candidate and former general Sarath Fonseka [BBC profile]. The Court did, however, approve requests [BBC report] to ensure Fonseka's safety and to allow him greater access to lawyers, family, and colleagues. Fonseka has been in prison since February 8, when the Sri Lankan Media Centre for National Security (MCNS) announced [press release; JURIST report] that he was being held "in connection with certain fraudulent acts and other military offences," but charges have yet to be filed [AFP report]. Incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa [official website, in Sinhala] says Fonseka was planning a coup [BBC report]. Human Rights groups have expressed concern [JURIST report] that trying Fonseka in a military court, as the Sri Lankan government has advocated, will deprive the former general of "due process." The next hearing on Fonseka's case is scheduled for April 26.

Two weeks ago, Rajapaksa dissolved [JURIST report] Parliament [official website] and called for early parliamentary elections. It is believed that Rajapaksa is trying to harness momentum from the presidential election in January, in which he was re-elected, to gain more seats in parliament for his political party, Freedom Alliance. Earlier this month, 37 people, most of them military officers, were arrested in connection to an alleged assassination attempt against Rajapaksa. The Sri Lankan Supreme Court ruled this month that Rajapaksa's second term [JURIST report] will begin in November. The apparent victor in January's elections, Rajapaksa defeated Fonseka by an official margin of 18 points, winning re-election to a second term in office. Fonseka has disputed [Al Jazeera report] the results, saying violence and vote-counting irregularities invalidated the outcome.



 

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