South Africa condemns Madagascar's Ravalomanana verdict

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

South Africa has strongly criticised Madagascar over the life sentence passed on exiled President Marc Ravalomanana last week.

Such sentences would not help end Madagascar's political turmoil, said International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.

Mr Ravalomanana is in exile in South Africa after being toppled in March 2009.

He was sentenced for the killing of some 30 people during street protests.

Those who died were supporters of Andry Rajoelina, who took over the government with the support of the army after Mr Ravalomanana fled.

Mr Rajoelina's government has not been internationally recognised and South Africa is leading efforts to end the political stand-off.

Ms Nkoana-Mashabane hinted that the judge's decision may have been politically influenced.

"I don't think judgements passed in absentia help in resolving problems in Madagascar," she said.

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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