Madagascar court sentences ex-leader in absentia

A Madagascar court sentenced former leader Marc Ravalomanana in absentia on Wednesday to four years in jail and a $70-million fine for abuse of office in buying a presidential jet, a minister said.

“The verdict was made today [Wednesday] condemning Ravalomanana,” Justice Minister Christine Razanamahasoa told reporters.

Ravalomanana is in South Africa seeking international support for a return to Madagascar, where he lost power in March after opposition leader Andry Rajoelina led protests against him and took over with army support.

The court also gave Ravalomanana’s former finance and budget minister, Haja Razafinjatovo, the same sentence for his role in the jet deal.

Rajoelina, who had called Ravalomanana corrupt and dictatorial, has established a transitional authority on the Indian Ocean island and promised an election by late 2010.

African nations have generally condemned his takeover as a coup, and urged talks between the two rivals.

It was not immediately clear how the court case would affect tentative negotiations between the two sides. The crisis has worried foreign investors in Madagascar’s growing oil and mining sectors and has hurt the $390-million-a-year tourism industry.—Reuters

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