Sri Lanka promises to reopen border to travelers as ex-president’s hospital treatment ends

Sri Lanka announced Friday that its land borders would reopen to international travelers after Sri Lanka’s former president was arrested on accusations that he conspired to bribe a former premier out of office and evade $12.8 million in donations to charities.

Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena said the ban on international travelers will be lifted on Saturday, the same day former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is facing an impending court appearance in a case involving allegations that he conspired to bribe a former premier out of office and evade $12.8 million in donations to charities, is scheduled to be released from a hospital where he was admitted for treatment.

After a lengthy discussion, Sirisena agreed to reopen the borders, state-run newspaper Sri Lanka Today reported. The decision was announced at a special Cabinet meeting chaired by Sirisena.

Rajapaksa was charged last week with conspiracy to commit criminal offenses and failure to comply with official duties. The court could place him under house arrest if prosecutors prove he is unfit to be held in custody.

Rajapaksa is facing prosecution by the country’s attorney general for allegedly receiving $12.8 million in donations from abroad that was allegedly diverted to bank accounts and family accounts owned by him and his relatives.

Three members of the former government, including former prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, are also accused of taking part in the bribery scheme. Sirisena sacked Wickremesinghe in October and appointed Rajapaksa as prime minister soon after, leading to the country’s first constitutional crisis.

Wickremesinghe was later unconstitutionally removed by the High Court on grounds of lacking the necessary majority votes in Parliament, and Sirisena appointed Rajapaksa for a few weeks before calling fresh elections in December that brought in Wickremesinghe.

Rajapaksa faces a series of allegations from his failed 2015 campaign for a second five-year term. Some of the allegations include conspiracy, corruption and abuse of power. The Sri Lankan media has been closely tracking the legal and financial problems plaguing the ex-president.

Rajapaksa was elected president in 2005 and retained power in 2015, much to the dismay of the United States, European Union and India, among other countries.

Although Sirisena was elected in January 2015, his government has criticized Rajapaksa’s administration for human rights violations during his decade in power.

Sirisena was named the chair of the United Nations Human Rights Council after securing the vote of all 21 member countries of the council.

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