Sri Lanka ex-army chief faces new trial

July 29, 2010 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s former army chief and defeated presidential candidate Sarath Fonseka was brought before the Colombo High Court on Thursday to answer charges of provoking violence. Fonseka, who already faces two courts martial and two more criminal cases, was taken before a three-member “trial-at-bar” for the first time and charged, his attorney said.

“The main charge is inciting people to violence,” lawyer Nalin Laduwahetti said. Some 20 witnesses will be called during the next hearing, on September 27.

The trial-at-bar dispenses with the normal practice of trial by jury, and is normally used by the state to fast-track legal proceedings in high-profile cases. If convicted, Fonseka could be jailed for five to 20 years.

Fonseka was charged under tough emergency laws in relation to accusations he incited violence by commenting to a newspaper that surrendering rebel leaders were executed during the country’s civil war, which ended in May 2009.

Fonseka maintained that the published comments — which suggested defence secretary Gotabhaya Rakapakse, the younger brother of the president, had ordered the executions — were in fact misquotes. Rajapakse has denied th