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Fonseka gets presidential pardon

Thousands gather to greet former military commander upon release from prison

Former military commander Sarath Fonseka leaves prison in Colombo today Former military commander Sarath Fonseka leaves prison in Colombo today
  • ucanews.com reporters, Colombo
  • Sri Lanka
  • May 21, 2012
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Former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka was released today by presidential pardon after more than two years in prison.

“I am now a free man. I will sacrifice my life for the people. I will continue my fight against corruption, and I call on you to help me rebuild this country,” Fonseca told a crowd of more than 2,000 gathered to welcome him outside Welikada prison.

He added that despite undergoing an unfair trial and imprisonment, he wanted to further the peace the government had won in bringing to an end nearly 30 years of civil war.

The former general was widely credited for the defeat of the Liberation Tigers of tamil Eelam in 2009. Following his defeat in the 2010 election to President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Fonseka was arrested and charged with corruption and military offenses.

An earlier court martial found him guilty of interfering in politics and stripped him of his rank and pension. He was sentenced to three years in prison.

Rajapaksa called for his release over the weekend as the nation marked the third anniversary of the end of a 26-year civil war that claimed the lives of as many as 100,000 people.

Fonseka’s wife Anoma, who headed numerous campaigns to free her husband, said his release was a victory for equity and justice, but that the government must also ensure his safety and privileges as a private citizen.

“As Fonseka is a target of the defeated LTTE, we have to safeguard him and we must protect ourselves,” she said.

In 2006, Fonseka survived a suicide bomb attack by a pregnant LTTE operative who infiltrated army headquarters on the pretext of attending a clinic. Nine people were killed in the attack and he was seriously injured.

Democratic National Alliance parliamentarian Jayantha Katagoda echoed safety concerns, saying that the lives of all former military commanders were still at risk.

"It is the duty of the government to safeguard his life after release him," he said.

Provincial minister Udaya Gammanpila said that despite his imprisonment and alleged crimes Fonseka had earned the nation’s respect.

“We still believe that he is the best army commander in Sri Lanka’s history. When we look at the contribution he has made towards the country, whatever wrong he may have committed, he qualifies for a presidential pardon,” he said.

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