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Protesters demand Fonseka release
Activists say government presents a false democratic face to the worldProtesters rally outside the prison in Colombo where former army chief Sarath Fonseka is being held
- ucanews.com reporter, Colombo
- Sri Lanka
- August 9, 2011
Thousands of protesters donned black clothing and carried placards during what was dubbed by demonstrators as a âBlack Protestâ.
Demonstrators shouted âBroke the laws and made lawsâ and âOne year and six months â havenât you any shame,â referring to the length of time Fonseka has been detained.
The former general, credited with defeating the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam after nearly 30 years of civil war, was arrested on February 8, 2010, and charged with illegal arms trading and conspiracy to topple the government after an unsuccessful run for president against Mahinda Rajapaksa, who won the election the previous month.
Fonseka is currently serving a 30-month sentence.
âWe urge the government to release all political prisoners and restore democracy in the country,â said Chandraguptha Thenuwara, a Sri Lankan artist and lecturer at the Fine Arts University in Colombo.
âThe government has violated our citizensâ democratic rights and kept political prisoners in jail without proper legal action. It is totally wrong,â said Thenuwara. âEvery citizen should have political rights.â
Religious leaders have made several previous calls for the release of Fonseka.
The Catholic Bishopsâ Conference of Sri Lanka appealed unsuccessfully for his release last year.
âThe government conducts state terrorism while showing democracy to the world,â said Wickramabahu Karunaratne, a civil rights activist, at the demonstration, which was organized by the Peopleâs Movement for Democracy.
Activists have long sought the whereabouts of Tamil prisoners who disappeared during years of civil strife.
âWe have a responsibility to join the struggle to release political prisoners and bringÂ them justice,â said Harsha Nadeera, a Christian rights activist.
Father S. Ainsley Roshan, a chaplalin for prisoners in Jaffna diocese who did not attend the demonstration, said the issue of political prisoners was a pressing concern for the country.
âThe government should take immediate action to do what is required for justice,â he said yesterday.