Former Sri Lankan Army Chief Given Bail as US, Sri Lankan Officials Meet

Posted May 18th, 2012 at 1:05 pm (UTC-5)
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A court in Sri Lanka has granted bail for Sri Lanka's former army chief, paving the way for the president to grant him a full pardon.

The high court Friday set bail at $8,000 on Sarath Fonseka in a case where he is accused of hiring military deserters.

Fonseka was jailed last year and has also been convicted and sentenced in separate cases involving corruption in the procurement of arms and accusing the country's defense secretary of ordering the killing of Tamil Tiger rebels during the last months of Sri Lanka's civil war.

The former army chief is credited with defeating the rebels in May of 2009, ending the 25-year civil conflict. Fonseka quit the army and ran for president against incumbent Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2010. He was detained soon after.

The court's decision came as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sri Lankan Foreign Minister G. L. Peiris held talks Friday in Washington.

Clinton told reporters the United States strongly supports the process of reconciliation and reconstruction in Sri Lanka. Peiris said his country has completed 90 percent of the work connected with resettling those displaced by the civil war. He said 595 former rebel child soldiers have been integrated into society through vocation training.

The Sri Lankan foreign minister also noted “excellent cooperation” between his country and the United States on defense and that the countries are also exploring ways to boost trade and investment.

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

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.