Court martial of Sri Lanka's ex-army chief adjourned

Last Updated: Tue, Apr 06, 2010 13:20 hrs

A court martial of Sri Lanka's former army chief was adjourned on Tuesday, two days ahead of parliamentary polls at which he is a candidate.

Sarath Fonseka, who has been in detention since February 8, appeared over two separate cases in the tightly-guarded naval headquarters in Colombo and repeated his objections to the panel of judges, a military official told AFP.

Fonseka, 59, led the military to victory over the Tamil Tiger rebels last year but fell out with President Mahinda Rajapakse and unsuccessfully tried to unseat him in elections in January.

He is a candidate from the opposition Democratic National Alliance at Thursday's parliamentary polls. His party has said that his arrest and detention was aimed at preventing him from campaigning.

Thousands of Fonseka supporters led by Buddhist monks staged a peaceful sit-down protest in Colombo Tuesday, a day after police broke up a fast by a dozen monks who demanded the general's immediate release.

Fonseka's wife told reporters in Colombo that her husband's health was failing and accused the government of trying to kill him.

"He had been injured in battle thrice and his lungs had been affected," Anoma Fonseka said. "The government is not allowing his own doctor to treat him. They want to ensure that he is pushed towards a natural death."

Rajapakse, whose party looks set to win Thursday's elections easily, has been accused by political opponents and international human rights groups of suppressing dissent since his resounding re-election.

At the court martial, judges put off until May 5 charges that Fonseka was engaging in politics while in uniform.

Other charges over allegedly illegal procurements were postponed until Friday after his lawyers objected to the judges, saying they were biased against him.

Fonseka, who was arrested 12 days after he lost the presidential election to Rajapakse, denies all charges and says they are part of a political vendetta against him.

He entered politics after quitting the military in November, six months after the separatist Tamil rebels were finally crushed.

More from Sify: