Lanka grants pardon to deserters to mark Buddhist function


Rajapaksa, who is also the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, granted the amnesty on the occasion of Boson to celebrate the arrival of Buddhism to Sri Lanka from India more than 2,300 years ago, they said.

The pardon applied to deserters, who have been sentenced to a maximum of one year in jail after being convicted by a military court.

As such, many of these army deserters had only a few months to be released from jail, the officials said, adding they could have been set free in the first few months of their jail term itself had they shown "good behaviour".

Many of these deserters have been released from the main prison in Colombo and several other jails across the country.

"These desertions took place several years ago but now that the war is over after the LTTE was completely defeated last month, many want to rejoin the army," an official said.

In 2003, the government had offered a scheme under which the army deserters could legally exit if they agreed to pay up any money they owed to the military.

Those who wished to rejoin could also be considered for fresh enlistment at that time.

Sri Lanka last month declared victory in the civil war after crushing the LTTE resistance.

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