Rajapaksa ‘pressed’ army after Sri Lanka poll defeat — official

Updated 11 January 2015
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Rajapaksa ‘pressed’ army after Sri Lanka poll defeat — official

COLOMBO: Mahinda Rajapaksa tried to persuade the army chief to deploy troops when it became clear he had lost Sri Lanka’s election, a spokesman for the country’s new president said Saturday.
Rajapaksa has been widely praised for conceding defeat early on Friday, even before the last votes had been counted, when he realized that his rival Maithripala Sirisena had an unassailable lead.
But in a press conference on Saturday, a top aide to Sirisena said that Lt. Gen Daya Ratnayake, who is the head of the armed forces, had come under pressure to intervene shortly before the concession.
“The army chief was under pressure to deploy but he did not. He declined to do anything illegal,” Rajitha Senaratne, the chief spokesman for the new president, told reporters in Colombo.
“Even in the last hour, he (Rajapaksa) tried to remain in office. Only when he realized that he had no other option, he decided to go.”
There was no immediate comment from the military.
Senaratne, who is tipped to become health minister, declined to say whether the deposed president himself tried to contact the military chief or used his younger brother Gotabhaya.
Gotabhaya Rajapaksa has often been accused of meddling in his officially neutral role as defense secretary.
“There was a defense ministry conspiracy for Rajapaksa to remain in office. Gotabhaya had openly defied election laws and addressed election rallies,” Senaratne said, adding the new administration would put a stop to public servants dabbling in politics.
Senaratne said the defense ministry had also tried to deploy troops in the island’s former war zone and stage explosions in a bid to discourage ethnic Tamils from voting.
Despite two explosions that caused no harm, the northern region voted overwhelmingly to support Sirisena.
Rajapaksa was reviled by many members of Sri Lanka’s largest ethnic minority for allegedly ordering the brutal military suppression of a separatist insurgency in which thousands of civilians died.
Senaratne said the new Sri Lankan government had guaranteed the safety of Rajapaksa and his family after the vote, but vowed to pursue members of the former administration for human rights abuses.
“We don’t believe in revenge, but that does not mean we will not prosecute those accused of wrongdoing,” he said.
Sri Lanka has been largely immune from military meddling in politics except for a 1962 coup that failed to topple the government. Since then, there had been no direct military role in the army.
Sri Lanka’s former army chief Sarath Fonseka, who launched a failed bit to challenge president Rajapaksa at his 2010, was convicted of engaging in politics while still in uniform and jailed for 30 months.


Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan wins bail in France rape case

Updated 15 November 2018
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Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan wins bail in France rape case

  • A Paris appeals court ruled in favor of Ramadan after the Swiss academic made an impassioned argument for release

PARIS: Tariq Ramadan, a leading Islamic scholar held in France since February on charges he raped two women, on Thursday won conditional release as the allegations continued to be investigated, his lawyer told AFP.
A Paris appeals court ruled in favor of Ramadan after the 56-year-old Swiss academic made an impassioned argument for release. His bail was set at 300,000 euros ($340,000) and requires him to hand over his passport and report to police once a week.
“Where would I flee to?” he asked in his hearing, his first public appearance since his incarceration.
Ramadan denies charges he raped the women in 2009 and 2012. One accuser is a disabled woman identified in media reports as “Christelle” and the other is a feminist activist, Henda Ayari.
But last month Ramadan was forced to drop assertions he had no sexual contact at all with the women after an expert recovered 399 text messages between him and “Christelle,” some of which detailed violent sexual fantasies. Ramadan subsequently said the sexual contact was “consensual.”
In court, Ramadan said he had no intention of becoming a fugitive from justice, and said his multiple sclerosis meant he had difficulty walking after 10 months locked up.
“I will remain in France and defend my honor and my innocence,” the well-known TV commentator told the judges in what was his fourth bid to secure his freedom.
“I would like you to make your decision from your conscience, not because my name is Tariq Ramadan and I’m demonized in this country,” he said.
He portrayed his accusers as liers bending media attention in the case to their benefit, asking: “Who has instrumentalized the ‘Me Too’ movement?“
Ramadan, a married father of four whose grandfather founded Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, was a professor at Oxford University until he was forced to take leave when the rape allegations surfaced at the height of the “Me Too” movement late last year.