Sri Lanka’s defeated presidential candidate arrested

February 8, 2010 (AFP) – The defeated candidate in Sri Lanka’s presidential vote, former army chief Sarath Fonseka, was arrested Monday hours after vowing to give evidence before any war crimes tribunal.

State media said Fonseka, who led the army to victory over Tamil Tiger rebels last year, ending a bloody 37-year insurgency, was taken into custody by the military police to be charged with unspecified “military offences”.

The 59-year-old retired four-star general, who lost to President Mahinda Rajapakse in the January 26 election, was seized by troops who stormed the offices of the main opposition alliance which had backed his candidacy.

“They forcibly took away General Fonseka while he was having a discussion with three other senior opposition leaders,” a spokesman for the People’s Liberation Front (JVP) told AFP.

“They grabbed him and virtually carried him away after threatening the others,” the spokesman said. “There must have been over 100 soldiers.”

The office was cordoned off by heavily armed troops who blocked reporters and photographers from entering the building.

Fonseka’s campaign manager, Senaka de Silva, was also taken off, witnesses said.

Official sources