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Wednesday, 11 September, 2002, 09:10 GMT 10:10 UK
Prison term for Niger sultan
Former sultan of Zinder
The sultan says he is the victim of a political trial
A court in Niger has sentenced the country's most senior traditional ruler to two years in prison for fraud.

This is the latest blow for former Sultan of Zinder, Elhadj Aboubacar Sanda, who was last year sacked by the government in the "Sultangate" affair.

Sultan of Zinder
Head of Niger's traditional chiefs
Religious leader
Non-hereditary, voted in by chiefs and elders
Non-political but influential
The former sultan's lawyers boycotted the trial, saying they had been denied access to key court papers.

He is currently under house arrest and is planning to appeal against what they call the "politically motivated" sentence.

The BBC's Idy Barou in Niamey says that appeals in Niger generally take a week or two, so by the end of the month, it is likely that Mr Sanda will either begin his jail term or be acquitted.

The former sultan was also ordered to pay a fine of 21.9m CFA francs ($32,573). One of his former subjects, Zakari Ormarou, received the same punishments as Mr Sanda.

Divine punishment

"If there is a pure dictatorship, pure totalitarianism, then Niger is a classic example," said one of the sultan's lawyers, Moussa Coulibaly.

Mr Sanda recently publicly swore on the Koran that if he was involved in fraud, he wanted to be punished by Allah.

The man he was accused of defrauding, Daouda Maina, told journalists that he had never had any business dealings with the former sultan or laid charges against him with the police.

He was sacked last July after being accused of:

  • plotting a coup
  • involvement in killings and abductions
  • cocaine trafficking
  • receiving stolen cars
  • dealing in counterfeit money.
He was controversially replaced as Sultan by Elhadj Mamadou Moustapha, a 59-year-old former policeman.

Car dealer

The title is not hereditary and has for the past 20 years belonged to Aboubacar Oumarou Sanda, a man who combined the roles of traditional potentate with modern businessman.

Mr Sanda imports petrol and cars and is said to have strong business links with Europe, northern Nigeria and Brunei.

Our correspondent says that he is one of the most educated traditional rulers in Niger.

He says that the former sultan enjoys public sympathy both in his home region of Zinder but also in the capital.

Mr Sanda also enjoys the backing of the 250-strong Association of Traditional Chiefs of Niger, of which he is president.

See also:

30 Jul 01 | Africa
02 Sep 00 | Middle East
26 Jul 01 | Country profiles
10 May 01 | Africa
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