Rising Senegal politician Khalifa Sall gets 5 years for fraud

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Leading Senegalese politician Khalifa Sall was handed a five-year jail term for fraud on Friday, a sentence that will rule him out of presidential elections due next February.

Sall, 62, who is mayor of Dakar, had denied the charges against him as politically motivated.

He had been accused of fraudulent use of public funds, for which he was also fined 7 625 euros.

He was found not guilty on charges of criminal conspiracy, money laundering and misappropriating public funds.

Prosecutors had sought a seven-year prison term against Sall, who was tried along with his financial director, Mbaye Toure, and six other defendants.

The trial has been closely followed in Senegal, given Sall's high popularity and the repercussions in next year's presidential elections.

Sall represents a growing challenge to incumbent President Macky Sall, who shares the same name but is not a relation.

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Supporters of the mayor protested loudly in the packed courtroom when the verdict was announced on Friday.

A dissident member of the Socialist Party, Khalifa Sall began his political activism at the age of 11.

After holding various ministerial portfolios under then Socialist president Abdou Diouf, he was elected mayor of the capital in 2009.

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 trial was fuelled by his refusal to cut deals with the government and that the money was used for spending on sensitive issues such as security.

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