South Asia

Sarath Fonseka loses bid to keep Sri Lanka seat

Sarath Fonseka leaves court (file photo)
Image caption The former four-star general can no longer remain an MP

Imprisoned former Sri Lankan military commander Sarath Fonseka has lost a Supreme Court appeal to retain his parliamentary seat.

The court ruled that a court martial in September which found him guilty of arms procurement offences meant that he could no longer be an MP.

The BBC's Charles Haviland in Colombo says that the ruling is a severe legal blow for Mr Fonseka.

He will lose his seat and civic rights, including voting rights for six years.

The petition from Mr Fonseka and his lawyers asserted that the system of General Courts Martial, which twice tried him last year, finding him guilty both times, was illegal.

If the petition had been successful, the former military chief would have been able to return to his seat in parliament.

It would also have thrown doubt on his sentences to two-and-a-half years in prison, and to losing his rank and medals.

But the Supreme Court ruled that the system of military trial was legal and constitutional.

The electoral commission will now seek to replace Mr Fonseka with a new MP from the same party.

Wednesday marks one year since Mr Fonseka lost the presidential election to his one-time ally, Mahinda Rajapaksa. He was, however, elected to parliament in April 2010.

Mr Fonseka fell out with the president over who should get the credit for the 2009 military victory over the Tamil Tigers.

There has been a series of reports that the 60-year-old former general, who was once nearly killed by a Tamil Tiger suicide bomber, is ill in jail.

But he is still visiting the courts to face other charges.

Earlier this month there were reports that Sri Lanka's chief justice had tried to quit following a row with President Rajapaksa.

The issue was raised in parliament, but nothing was confirmed.

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