Sri Lanka police break up protest over Fonseka arrest

February 11, 2010 (AFP) – Sri Lankan police used batons and tear gas Thursday against protesters demanding the immediate release of defeated presidential candidate and former army chief Sarath Fonseka, witnesses said. Police charged into the crowds and beat them in Maharagama, a suburb of Colombo, a day after similar protests outside the Supreme Court in Colombo and several provincial towns.

An AFP photographer said hundreds of supporters of Fonseka were attacked by police as they gathered at the busy Maharagama town and began shouting anti-government slogans.

“After attacking the crowds with batons, the police fired tear gas to disperse the crowds,” the photographer said.

The demonstration came as Fonseka in a message through his wife appealed for calm after several people were injured in violent protests Wednesday.

The military arrested Fonseka, a retired four-star general, saying he was conspiring against the government of President Mahinda Rajapakse.

He lost the January 26 election to Rajapakse, his former commander-in-chief.