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Sri Lanka's Fonseka: 'I will never give up'

By Jonathan Miller

Updated on 16 March 2010

Exclusive: Former army commander General Sarath Fonseka tells Channel 4 News from his Sri Lanka prison cell that he is being set up, and claims the charges he faces in a military court are bogus.

General Sarath Fonseka (Getty)

Read the Sri Lanka High Commission statement in full.

Sri Lanka's former army commander, who is facing two separate courts martial in Colombo, has told Channel 4 News that he has been set up and that the charges he is facing are bogus.

His handwritten answers were smuggled out of Sri Lankan Naval Headquarters, where General Sarath Fonseka is being held.

General Fonseka lost the January election by 1.8 million votes and was arrested last month and charged with corruption and engaging in politics while in uniform. "He is jealous of me as I got more votes than him although he rigged he knows that I can challenge him [sic]," the general wrote, adding that he believed he was being held illegally and that his life remains at risk.

"But I will never give up exposing rogue president for sake of country," he said.

Read General Sarath Fonseka's letter in full

Both men were credited with ending the 30-year civil war against Tamil insurgents in May last year and both have traded politically on war hero status. General Fonseka is Sri Lanka’s most-decorated soldier but he was branded a traitor for standing against his Commander-in-Chief.

"I hope the people of this country have realised that this rogue president stole their victory on last presidential election," the general told Channel 4 News. 

"They also must realise that this president behaving exactly like the Idi Amin."

More Sri Lanka stories from Channel 4 News
- Sri Lanka's Rajapaska wins re-election
- Sri Lanka declares victory over Tigers

The former army chief appeared before a military court on Tuesday as thousands of his supporters protested in the capital, Colombo.

His court martial on charges of engaging in politics while still in the army was adjourned until 6 April 2010. 

But Fonseka is due to appear at another military court hearing tomorrow (Wednesday) to face charges that he unfairly granted an arms contract to a company run by his son-in-law in the United States. Fonseka has challenged his arrest in the Supreme Court and a hearing has been set for 26 April.

Today one of the General’s lawyers said he "is not either pleading guilty or not guilty because the court has no power to hear and try these charges."

They say that he retired from the army in July last year and could not therefore be arrested under military law.

In full: General Fonseka's map of where he is being held.

Interviewed by Channel 4 News, the general's wife, Anoma Fonseka, said the victory over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam guerrillas was made possible by the relationship between her husband and the president. "Without their friendship they couldn’t have won the war," she said. 

Mrs Fonseka denied that the general was intending to launch a coup d'etat against his former friend. Asked whether she was living in fear for her life she replied:  "Actually, not my life, but my husband's life, yes. I am very scared for him."

Gotabaya Rajapakse, who is defence secretary and the president’s brother, has been accused of complicity in war crimes by General Fonseka.

The administration appears to fear what the general may say if he is asked to testify at any future war crimes hearings.

The defence secretary holds joint American citizenship and the general is a US green card holder.

From his guarded quarters inside Naval HQ, General Fonseka told Channel 4 News: "I will only celebrate the day I expose this rogue president to the country and to the world and bring the people of this country peace free of thugery and political violence and bring real democracy to the country and stop corruption in the country."

Read General Sarath Fonseka's letter in full.

More Channel 4 News exclusive reports from Sri Lanka
- Sri Lanka execution video 'not fake'
- Footage reveals Sri Lanka camp conditions

Sri Lanka High Commission statement:
"General Sarath Fonseka, the former commander of the Sri Lanka Army and former Chief of defence staff, Sri Lanka has been arrested under the Army Act of 1949 of Sri Lanka and his arrest is well within the law of the country.

"The Supreme Court of Sri Lanka issued notices to the respondents when the petition filed by the spouse of General Fonseka challenging the legality of the arrest in a fundamental rights application on 23 February 2010. The application for the bail has also been refused by the Supreme Court.

"The summary of evidence has been concluded and the charge sheet has been served to General Fonseka accordingly. His denial of any wrong doing would be considered by the Court.

"General Fonseka has been accommodated by the government with all amenities and his statement to the effect that the living conditions are difficult is not maintainable.

"President Mahinda Rajapaksa has been re-elected for the second term with a margin of 1.8 million votes and the election observers have endorsed the outcome of the election."

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