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Sri Lanka president ratifies ex-army chief's prison sentence

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa [official profile; JURIST news archive] on Thursday ratified a prison sentence [news release] for former Sri Lankan army chief Sarath Fonseka [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. Fonseka was convicted [JURIST report] two weeks ago by a court-martial on charges of corruption and sentenced to a maximum of three years in prison, although Rajapaksa has called for a 30-month sentence. The court found [AFP report] that Fonseka gave preference to an arms company operated by his son-in-law. Fonseka, who is credited with bringing an end to the 26-year civil war, was arrested shortly after his defeat in the January presidential election in which he ran against Rajapaksa. He has been held in military custody since the arrest. Fonseka's lawyers have accused the court of irregularities, and Fonseka has accused the government of seeking revenge for his decision to run in the presidential elections. According to the Sri Lankan Constitution [text], individuals who have served prison sentences are barred from serving in the government [AP report].

Last month, Fonseka announced his decision to appeal [JURIST report] a separate conviction on charges of engaging in politics while on active duty. Fonseka was accused [JURIST report] of trying to secure a place in a political party before he quit his military position. Accordingly, he was dishonorably discharged and stripped of his rank, medals and pension. In July, the High Court of Sri Lanka [official website] conducted the first hearing in a case accusing Fonseka of provoking violence and bringing disrepute to the government. The charges are in relation to statements made to the Sunday Leader [media website] newspaper, which suggested that the government of Rajapaksa ordered the killing of surrendering rebel leaders during the Sri Lankan civil war.

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