Exiled Madagascan leader Ravalomanana sentenced

Marc Ravalomanana (file pic) Mr Ravalomanana fled Madagascar in March 2009

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Madagascar's exiled former president has been sentenced to life in prison with hard labour for ordering the killing of opposition supporters.

Marc Ravalomanana was sentenced in absentia for the February 2009 murders of at least 30 people by his presidential guard.

Mr Ravalomanana has been living in South Africa since March 2009.

Those killed were supporters of Andry Rajoelina, who has now taken over the government.

Mr Ravalomanana was charged with murder and being an accessory to murder, along with 18 other people, some of whom are also in exile.

Crisis

The former president's defence lawyers walked out on the trial shortly after the hearings began, saying the court was being used by Mr Rajoelina's administration.

"The aim is to sentence him so he can't return to Madagascar and run in future elections," lawyer Hanitra Razafimanantsoa told news agency AFP.

Madagascar has been in the midst of a political crisis for the past 19 months.

It is the third sentence given to Mr Ravalomanana by a court since he left the country.

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