Fonseka presidential election challenge dismissed by court

Request by former Sri Lankan army chief to nullify election of President Rajapaksa over alleged widespread intimidation, bribery and misconduct during the voting is rejected.

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COLOMBO // Sri Lanka's supreme court dismissed today a formal request by the former army chief Sarath Fonseka to nullify the election of President Mahinda Rajapaksa that alleged widespread intimidation, bribery and misconduct during the voting in January.

Fonseka, the opposition presidential candidate, is currently serving a jail term.

Mr Rajapaksa and Fonseka, who were once allies, were considered heroes by the Sinhalese majority in Sri Lanka for crushing the Tamil rebels last year, ending a quarter-century-long civil war that killed 80,000 to 100,000 people.

But they fell out months after the war ended, and Fonseka, then a general, quit the army after accusing Mr Rajapaksa of sidelining him over suspicions of a possible military coup. Their relationship further deteriorated after Fonseka challenged Mr Rajapaksa in the presidential election.

Two weeks after his election defeat, Fonseka was arrested and placed in indefinite detention. Last month he was jailed for 30 months after a court martial found him guilty of irregularities in military procurements.

In his petition, Fonseka alleged that the election of Mr Rajapaksa to a second term was void as there was widespread intimidation, bribery and misconduct during the vote, said one of his lawyers. Fonseka also asked the Supreme Court to order a recount, the lawyer said.

Mr Rajapaksa's lawyers objected on the basis that the petition did not conform to the provisions of the presidential election act because it was not properly submitted.

The five-member bench upheld the preliminary objections and dismissed the petition, said Mr Rajapaksa's counsel, DS Wijesinghe.

Fonseka was convicted by a military court last month of fraud. He was sentenced to 30 months in prison with hard labour.

An earlier military court had stripped him of his rank and military honours for planning a political career while in uniform.

He has appealed against both rulings.