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Sri Lankan court convicts former army commander

By Iqbal Athas, For CNN
  • Sarath Fonseka was hailed as a hero for leading the war against the Tamil Tigers
  • The general has already been stripped of his rank and denied a pension
  • He faces a three-year jail sentence for violating procurement procedures
  • His family believes the charges are trumped up to remove him from politics

Colombo, Sri Lanka (CNN) -- A Sri Lankan military court convicted the nation's former armed forces chief Friday on corruption charges, a senior army official told CNN.

Former Gen. Sarath Fonseka, hailed as a hero after leading a military campaign that defeated the Tamil Tiger rebels, faces a three-year jail sentence for violating military procurement procedures.

The sentence will be imposed once President Mahina Rajapaksa, who is out of the country, endorses the recommendations of the three-member General Court Martial.

Earlier this year, Fonseka was found guilty by another military court for meddling in politics while in uniform. He was stripped of his rank and military accolades and denied his pension.

Rajapaksa once called Fonseka the "best army commander in the world," but the two men drifted apart after Fonseka contested the presidential elections in January this year.

Fonseka's supporters say the former general was seen as a threat to the government and his arrest was ordered to prevent his participation in an April parliamentary vote.

Fonseca lost his presidential bid by a wide margin to Rajapaksa but was elected to parliament.

He was accused of serving as the chairman of a tender board that procured equipment from an Australian firm through a local company linked to his son-in-law Danuna Tillekeratne. The court tried him for concealing his relationship and failing to disassociate himself from the procurement process.

Fonseka also faces a string of other charges in civil courts, including employing army deserters and ordering troops to shoot civilians during the war with the rebels.

Fonseka has denied the allegations.