Senegal court upholds five-year term for leading politician Khalifa Sall
A Senegalese court on Thursday upheld a five-year jail term against leading politician Khalifa Sall in a ruling that bars him from running in presidential elections due next February.
"The court confirms the judgement against Khalifa Sall," a judge said.
Sall, 62, who is mayor of Dakar, had described the charges against him as politically motivated. He did not attend the reading of the verdict.
The politician was sentenced in March on charges of fraudulent use of public funds.
The court of appeal also ordered him, alongside three other defendants, to pay 1.8 billion CFA francs (2.75 million euros).
He was found not guilty on charges of criminal conspiracy, money laundering and misappropriating public funds.
The trial had been avidly followed in Senegal since the start of the year, throwing a spotlight on Sall's high popularity and stirring debate over next year's elections if he were to be convicted.
Khalifa Sall intends to take his case to the supreme court in a last-ditch effort to run in the February poll, according to a source close to him who requested anonymity.
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"There is still the supreme court step, which he plans on taking," the source said.
"If he is sentenced once and for all before submissions (for the presidential poll) close" on December 26, he will then be out of the race, the source added.
Along with former minister Karim Wade, Sall represents a growing challenge to incumbent President Macky Sall, who shares the same name but is not a relation.
Both men's lawyers accused the government of misusing the courts to stop them from contesting next year's election.
Wade, the high-profile businessman son of former Senegalese president Abdoulaye Wade, was also charged with misuse of funds in 2015.
The Supreme Court is expected to rule today on whether Wade will be allowed to make a bid for the presidency.
A dissident member of the Socialist Party, Khalifa Sall began his political activism at the age of 11.
He later held various ministerial portfolios under then Socialist president Abdou Diouf before being elected mayor of the capital in 2009.
The specific charge of misappropriating public funds centred on 1.83 billion CFA francs (2.7 million euros) of city money which allegedly was misused between 2011 and 2015.
The court heard allegations of a system of fake receipts for rice and millet, the money from which Sall was accused of using for "political purposes".
Sall said the money was not diverted for personal or political use but instead used for discretionary spending on sensitive issues such as security.