Rajapaksa gets nod to free jailed ex-army chief

Rajapaksa gets nod to free jailed ex-army chief

The Sri Lankan government has approved the release of jailed former army chief Sarath Fonseka, an official said Thursday.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has obtained the approval of his cabinet to free Fonseka, Xinhua quoted presidential spokesman Bandula Jayasekera as saying. 

Fonseka, receiving treatment at a local hospital, is expected to be given a presidential pardon over the next couple of days.

The former army chief was arrested and jailed after he contested against Rajapaksa for the post of president during 2010 elections.

He faced charges of harbouring army deserters, illegal arms dealing and allegedly telling a local newspaper that soldiers shot dead unarmed Tamil Tiger rebels who had surrendered during the final stages of the war.

Fonseka led the army during the final battle against the rebels which eventually led to the defeat of the rebels in May 2009.

On Wednesday night, the president met Fonseka's wife Anoma Fonseka and an opposition legislator to discuss Fonseka's release, officials said.

Opposition legislator Tiran Alles, who had brokered the release of Fonseka, met the president earlier in the day and the former army chief in hospital.

Alles, who is a member of the Democratic National Alliance, a political party formed by Fonseka before being jailed in 2010, has had several rounds of discussions with President Rajapaksa to secure Fonseka's release.

Cabinet spokesperson Lakshman Yapa Abeywardana Thursday also confirmed that Fonseka will be released soon.

Sri Lanka will celebrate the third anniversary of the end of the civil war this week and there is strong speculation that Fonseka will be freed as part of the celebrations.

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