COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lanka's new president pardoned and reinstated the rank of an ex-army commander who was imprisoned four years ago after challenging the former president in an election, his office announced Wednesday.
The statement issued by President Maithripala Sirisena's office said Sarath Fonseka is now entitled to all of his former privileges and political rights without any legal obstacles.
Fonseka — Sri Lanka's only four-star general — is credited with leading the army to victory in 2009 in the country's civil war with ethnic minority Tamil rebels. The rebels fought for 25 years to create an independent state for Tamils in a conflict that killed at least 80,000 people.
Fonseka was jailed after challenging then President Mahinda Rajapaksa in the 2010 election in a move widely condemned as political retribution by Rajapaksa.
Sirisena defeated Rajapaksa in a Jan. 8 presidential election.
Fonseka was sentenced in November 2011 to three years in prison for allegedly implicating the defense secretary and president's brother in war crimes during the civil war. Before that sentence, he was court-martialed on several charges related to his military service. He was stripped of his title, medals, pension and other honors, dishonorably discharged from the army and given a separate 30-month jail term. Fonseka said the cases were a political vendetta against him for daring to run against Rajapaksa.
While in detention, Fonseka won a parliamentary seat on the opposition ticket in April 2010, but was disqualified from holding office after the court-martial.
Although Fonseka was freed from prison in 2012 as a result of a pardon by Rajapaksa, he was not allowed to contest elections. Under Sri Lankan law, a person who has served six months or more of a prison term longer than two years cannot contest elections for seven years.