Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa announced that his former rival, the country’s former army head, Sarath Fonseka, would be released from prison on Monday.
Fonseka was jailed over two years ago on graft charges laid against him while he was challenging Rajapaksa for the presidency, AFP reported. The move to release him came as a result, it is speculated, to end criticism over Sri Lanka’s human rights record.
The United States considered Fonseka a political prisoner and repeatedly called for his freedom.
“I hope the president will keep his promise to release him unconditionally,” Anima Fonseka, the former army chief’s wife, told reporters, according to AFP.
For many Sri Lankans, Fonseka is regarded a hero—a leader in ending Sri Lanka’s 25-yearlong civil war with Tamil rebels.
His health has reportedly deteriorated since being imprisoned, but his wife said his condition has been gradually improving.