Sri Lankan President frees army chief who ran against him


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The Independent Online

Sri Lanka's President has ordered the release of the jailed former army chief, a man credited with ending the country's long civil war but who later was imprisoned after challenging the President in elections.

Mahinda Rajapaksa signed papers ordering the release of Sarath Fonseka, pictured, before embarking on an official visit to Qatar.

Mr Fonseka was serving a 30-month jail term after a court-martial found him guilty of planning his political career while still in the military and of committing fraud in purchasing military equipment.

Separately, in November 2011, he was sentenced to a three-year prison term for accusing the President's brother, the Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, of committing war crimes during Sri Lanka's civil war.

Mr Fonseka has appealed against that conviction and says the cases are part of a political vendetta launched to persecute him for daring to run against Mr Rajapaksa in the 2010 presidential election.