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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 December, 2003, 12:55 GMT
Madagascar's ex-PM jailed
Tantely  Andrianarivo, former Madagascar PM
Andrianarivo has been in custody for more than a year
Madagascar's former prime minister has been sentenced to 12 years hard labour and fined $7m for abuse of office.

Tantely Andrianarivo led the government of former President Didier Ratsiraka, who fled the country in June 2002 after a months-long political crisis.

Mr Andrianarivo's lawyers condemned the severity of the sentence and said they would appeal to the supreme court.

Both Mr Ratsiraka and the country's current President Marc Ravalomanana claimed to have won elections in 2001.

Mr Ratsiraka left the country for France in the summer of 2002, ending the power struggle.

He was sentenced in absentia to 10 years hard labour in August, but Madagascar has not sought his extradition.

Ill health

Mr Andrianarivo had been in detention for more than a year and earlier this month he was transferred to a hospital after suffering from exhaustion.

Didier Ratsiraka
Former President Ratsiraka was sentenced in absentia
He was convicted of wrongfully withdrawing more than 41billion Malagasy francs (over $7m) from government funds and endangering state security.

His lawyers said he used the money to pay civil servants' salaries, but prosecutors argued he was no longer prime minister at the time he withdrew the funds - and hence had no legal authority to do so.

He has been ordered to repay the money.

Amnesty International warned before his two-day trial began on Monday that it feared the proceedings would not be fair.

He is the highest-ranking former official to be sentenced in connection with the crisis that wracked the Indian Ocean state in 2002.

Several hundred people have been arrested since Mr Ratsiraka fled.

Critics of Mr Ravalomanana say only the former president's supporters - and none of the current one's - have been detained.

President sentenced

The former president was accused of stealing $8m of public money from the central bank last year, shortly before he went into exile.

The court also issued a national arrest warrant for Mr Ratsiraka and declared him unfit for public office.

Mr Ratsiraka's former Finance Minister, Blandin Razafinjato, and the man he appointed as central bank governor, Ferdinand Velomita, were jailed in their absence for six years.


SEE ALSO:
Madagascar leader routs rivals
23 Dec 02  |  Africa
Country profile: Madagascar
27 May 03  |  Country profiles


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