Former Sri Lankan army chief arrested

Sri Lanka's former army chief and presidential candidate was hauled away by military police today from his office, political allies said, after weeks of complaining of government harassment.

Sarath Fonseka, the former army chief who helped defeat the Tamil Tiger rebels and who lost the presidential election last month, was forcibly detained after objecting to his arrest, opposition politician Rauff Hakeem told the Associated Press.

Fonseka and President Mahinda Rajapaksa were once strong allies who combined to defeat the Tigers, ending the country's 25-year civil war last May. But they later fell out and Fonseka quit his post. They contested a bitter election last month for the presidency, won by the incumbent, Mr Rajapaksa.

Mano Ganeshan, an opposition lawmaker, said Fonseka was "arrested and forcibly carried away" while having a discussion with a group of political allies.

Mr Hakeem said Fonseka objected to being arrested by military police instead of civilian officers, since he was no longer in the military.

The officers dragged Fonseka and his secretary by the hands and legs into their vehicles, Mr Hakeem said.

"He was humiliated and disgraced in the way he was handled. We were just flabbergasted," he said.

It was unclear exactly what Fonseka was being charged with, Mr Hakeem said. The officers only said he was being detained under "the army act".

Since the January 26 election, Fonseka has complained that the government was attempting to arrest him on trumped up charges. Last week, security forces raided his office and arrested at least 15 of his staff.

Fonseka has vowed to contest parliamentary elections due by April, and the unofficial campaign season is well under way.

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