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Sri Lanka grants bail for ex-army chief

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - A court granted bail for Sri Lanka’s former Army chief on Friday, a move seen as a step toward a full pardon for the man credited with ending the country’s long civil war but who later was jailed after challenging the president in elections.

Sri Lanka’s High Court set Sarath Fonseka’s bail at $8,000 in a case where he is accused of harboring Army deserters. His lawyer, Saliya Peiris, said that Fonseka was also asked to surrender his passport.

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The court’s decision comes ahead of a meeting between Sri Lanka’s foreign minister and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Friday in Washington in which human rights issues in the island nation are expected to be discussed. The United States has called Fonseka a political prisoner.

But Fonseka will not be freed immediately because he is serving a 30-month jail term after a court martial found him guilty of planning his political career while still in the military and of committing fraud in purchasing military equipment.

Separately, in November 2011, he was sentenced to an additional three-year term for implicating the defense secretary and president’s brother Gotabhaya Rajapaksa in war crimes during Sri Lanka’s civil war. He has appealed the conviction.

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