Page last updated at 13:17 GMT, Thursday, 25 February 2010

General Sarath Fonseka to stand in Sri Lanka election

Gen Fonseka
Gen Fonseka is accused of working with "anti-government forces"

Defeated Sri Lankan presidential candidate Sarath Fonseka - currently detained in military custody - is to stand in April's parliamentary polls.

Party sources told the BBC that he would lead a new opposition alliance.

Sri Lanka's authorities have meanwhile announced a raft of possible civilian charges against Gen Fonseka in addition to any military cases against him.

Earlier this week he argued he should not face military charges because he had retired from being a general.

But the government argues he is subject to military law for up to six months after quitting the army.

The authorities accuse Gen Fonseka of having worked with what they call anti-government forces, but no specific charges against him have been brought.

Correspondents say that the move to file civilian charges against him - including allegations that he helped his relatives make illicit profits, created disaffection in the armed forces, harboured deserters and broke foreign exchange laws - shows the determination of the authorities to keep the general incarcerated either by military or by civilian law.

A close associate of Gen Fonseka, Tiran Alles, described all the charges as "bogus".

"We point-blank reject any of them," he said.

On Thursday, the general signed nomination papers to contest a seat in Colombo, representing the Democratic National Alliance - comprising six parties including the Sinhala Nationalist JVP - in April's polls.

The opposition is weaker than it was during January's presidential polls, because the coalition that supported his presidential candidacy has split up into several blocs.

The BBC's Charles Haviland in Colombo says that the split in the opposition boosts President Mahinda Rajapaksa's chances of winning a commanding majority in the next parliament.

Our correspondent says that the current parliament saw a flood of defections from its ranks to the government side, and many in the opposition fear that more will follow if the governing alliance repeats its victory.

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