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Activists attack Fonseka verdict

'Judicial reform needed' after top general jailed for three years

Activists attack Fonseka verdict
Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha Thero addressing the gathering to end political violence reporters, Colombo
Sri Lanka

November 21, 2011

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Civic activists and religious leaders have accused the government of using the judiciary as a political tool after the High Court jailed the country’s most distinguished soldier for three years on Friday. General Sarath Fonseka, who is already serving a 30-month term for irregularities in military procurement, was jailed for having “spread disaffection” by backing, in a newspaper interview, allegations that the defense minister ordered the shooting of Tamil Tiger rebels who were trying to surrender. The secretary to the defense minister was Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the president's brother. Following the court case, a meeting of activists including religious leaders, journalists and lawyers, said the trial was politically motivated and called for judicial reform. “There is no transparency in the judicial system today and people should call for the independence of the judiciary,” said Venerable Maduluwawe Sobitha Thero, a leading Buddhist monk. “We urge the authorities to respect the judiciary,” he said. “I saw people rushing out of the court and expressing their anguish and anger at the judiciary. It was the first time in my 24-year career as a lawyer,” said J.C. Weliamuna, former executive director of Transparency International. Fonseka, who says he was quoted out of context, refused to accept this verdict, saying the conviction was a political one aimed at keeping him out of politics. The main opposition party said the verdict was a clear indication that law, order and democracy did not prevail in the country. Related reports: Groups decry website ‘censorship’ Sri Lankan religious leaders want Sarath Fonseka’s release Bishops appeal for Fonseka’s release

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