Sri Lankan court drops charges against new president Gotabaya Rajapaksa

WION Web Team Colombo, Sri Lanka Nov 22, 2019, 05.24 PM(IST)

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa (File photo) Photograph:( AFP )

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As per the Sri Lankan constitution, no court proceedings can take place against any serving president. However, when a president leaves his office, action can be taken against him. 

In a major relief to the newly sworn-in Sri Lankan president, a court dropped corruption charges and handed him back his passport on Friday. 

As per the Sri Lankan constitution, no court proceeding can take place against any serving president. However, when a president leaves his office, action can be taken against him. 

In September 2018, the High Court indicted Rajapaksa on the charge of siphoning off 33 million rupees (nearly $185,000) in state funds to build a memorial for his parents. Gotabaya was also handed over his passport which was impounded, allowing him to visit India next week at the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi

The Sri Lankan president had earlier pleaded not guilty when he was tried before a special court established by the former government in a bid to expedite high-profile corruption cases. 

The court said that the fate of six others who were charged along with Rajapaksa will be decided when the case will go for the next hearing on January 9. 

Official sources said that Rajapaksa was also entitled to claim foreign sovereign immunity in the two civil cases filed against him in US for causing the death of senior newspaper journalist and torture. In 2009, Gotabaya denied any involvement in the killing of editor Lasantha Wickrematunge and torturing suspects when he headed the defence ministry and his brother Mahinda was president.  

Wickrematunge was murdered days before his testimony was due in a defamation case filed by Gotabaya after his newspaper accused him of corruption in a deal with Ukraine to buy fighter jets. 

Last week, Gotabaya was elected president of Sri Lanka and on Thursday his brother was sworn in as the prime minister. 

(with inputs from AFP)