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Sri Lanka high court to review legality of opposition candidate's arrest

[JURIST] Sri Lanka's Supreme Court agreed on Friday to consider a petition questioning the legality of the arrest of opposition presidential candidate and former general Sarath Fonseka [BBC profile]. The petition was filed [AFP report] by Fonseka's wife. Also Friday, street protests against Fonseka's arrest continued for a third day. Lawyers marched silently in Sri Lankan capital of Colombo, clad in black ceremonial robes. Eight people were reportedly injured [Reuters report] in a clash between the protesters and police, as the protesters exited the Supreme Court. The Sri Lankan Media Centre for National Security (MCNS) announced [press release] Monday that Fonseka was arrested [JURIST report] "in connection with certain fraudulent acts and other military offences." Incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa [official website, in Sinhala] alleges that Fonseka was planning a coup [BBC report]. Human Rights groups have expressed concern [JURIST report] that the decision to try Fonseka in a military court will deprive him of "due process."

On Tuesday, 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. Last week, 37 people, most of them military officers, were arrested in connection to an alleged assassination attempt against Rajapaksa. The Sri Lankan Supreme Court ruled last week 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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