Sunday, June 7, 2009

Sri Lankan President grants amnesty to military deserters

Sri Lanka’s President on Sunday marked a key Buddhist event by granting a pardon to 585 jailed military deserters, government officials said. The pardon applied to deserters serving up to a year in jail after being convicted by a military court.

The amnesty announcement coincided with Poson poya day, marking the arrival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka more than 2,500 years ago. They were released from Welikada, the main prison in Colombo and several other jails across the country. Most of the desertions took place several years ago, a military official said, adding there had been no exodus in recent years despite heavy fighting with the separatist Tamil Tigers who were eventually defeated last month. In 2003, the government moved to legally discharge from the security forces 51,000 deserters.