Sri Lankan president pardons former army chief

Colombo, Jan 21 (IANS) Sri lanka\'s newly elected President Maithripala Sirisena Wednesday granted full pardon to former army commander General Sarath Fonseka, convicted of corruption, an official statement said.

\"Former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka

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was acquitted from all charges and given complete amnesty by President Maithripala Sirisena,\" the President Office said in a statement, Xinhua reported.

Fonseka, the former commander of Sri Lanka\'s army, played an integral role in ending the 26-year civil war in 2009, defeating the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Following the end of the war, he resigned from the military and decided to contest the 2010 presidential election against the former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, which Fonseka eventually lost.

After the loss, Fonseka was arrested Feb 8, 2010, and it was announced that he would be court-martialed for committing \"military offences\".

He was found guilty of corrupt military supply deals and sentenced to three years in prison.

After serving more than two years in prison, Fonseka was released May 21, 2012, but his civic rights were not restored.

In November last year, he threw his support behind the opposition coalition backing Sirisena, which swept into power Jan 9, ending Rajapaksa\'s decade-long rule.

The pardon clears the way for Fonseka to return as a major force in local politics.