COLOMBO (Reuters) - Sri Lanka’s military arrested defeated presidential candidate General Sarath Fonseka on Monday on charges he conspired against the president before he quit the army to challenge him at the polls.
Here are some key facts about Fonseka:
* Fonseka, 59, is a career military officer who entered the army in 1970 and served as army commander from 2005-2009. During that time, he led the victorious military campaign to crush the Tamil Tigers, with a mix of outright firepower and counter-insurgency tactics using special forces “deep penetration” units to attack the Tigers. He was twice wounded in combat as an infantry officer
* In April 2006, a female Tamil Tiger suicide bomber infiltrated army headquarters and blew herself up next to Fonseka’s car and nearly killed him. But Fonseka was back at work three months later, and within days launched the offensive that would defeat the Tigers and kill its leadership.
* After the war, Fonseka became the first and only serving Sri Lankan officer to be promoted to the rank of four-star general. Rajapaksa later appointed him to the newly created position of chief of defence staff. Fonseka quit in November, complaining the job was designed to sideline him and that Rajapaksa had wrongly accused him of a coup plot.
* The presidential campaign turned personal and bitter, with Fonseka accusing the president of corruption and nepotism, and saying he had evidence of war crimes committed by troops under him. The president’s camp accused Fonseka of betraying state secrets and of a corrupt arms deal involving his son-in-law. Both sides denied the allegations.
* Fonseka has vowed to challenge Rajapaksa’s election victory in court and with street protests, despite findings by local and international poll monitors that the poll was free and fair. Rajapaksa had an 18 point victory margin, equal to about 1.8 million votes. A protest rally by Fonseka and the opposition last week drew only a few thousand people.
* The government has tightened the net around Fonseka since the election. Troops surrounded the hotel where Fonseka spent the night after the poll in what the general said was a plot to arrest him. The government said it suspected some ex-military men with him were plotting a coup and arrested them, but not Fonseka. Police commandoes raided Fonseka’s office a few days later. As of now the authorities have arrested at least 37 ex-military men allied to Fonseka and forced 14 senior army officers to retire for showing support to his candidacy.
* Fonseka is a U.S. green card holder, which entitles him to permanent resident status in the United States. He has two daughters who attend university in Oklahoma.
Writing by Bryson Hull; editing by Noah Barkin
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