Officials: Sri Lanka to Free Former Army Chief

Posted May 17th, 2012 at 12:40 pm (UTC-5)
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Senior officials say Sri Lanka's president has received Cabinet approval to order the release of the country's former army chief who was jailed last year.

Sarath Fonseka was convicted and sentenced to 30 months in prison for corruption in the procurement of arms and to three years in prison for making false allegations about the defense secretary.

The former army chief is credited with defeating the Tamil Tiger rebels in May of 2009 ending a 25-year civil war. Fonseka quit the army and ran for president against incumbent Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2010.

Fonseka's wife, Anoma, told news agencies she met with the president late Wednesday and he assured her that her husband would be released “very soon,” without conditions.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sri Lankan Foreign Minister G. L. Peiris are to meet later this week in Washington.

The United States has backed a U.N. resolution urging Sri Lanka to probe alleged human-rights violations during the final phase of the country's civil war.

Fonseka was convicted after he told a newspaper that President Rajapaksa's brother, Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, had ordered the killing of Tamil Tiger rebels during the last months of the conflict.

A U.N. report issued last April said tens of thousands of civilians may have been killed during government shelling of hospitals and other civilian targets. It said the military's actions could amount to war crimes, and it called for the United Nations to establish a special body to investigate further.

The Sri Lanka government has denied it committed war crimes during the conflict.