[JURIST] A court in Madagascar on Wednesday convicted former president Marc Ravalomanana [BBC report] of misusing state funds by purchasing a $60 million presidential jet. Justice Minister in the High Authority of the Transition (HAT) [official websites, in French] transitional government Christine Razanamahasoa announced the decision [Reuters report], saying that the court sentenced Ravalomanana in absentia to four years in jail and ordered him to pay a $70 million fine. A spokesman for Ravalomanana said that the verdict would hinder negotiations aimed at resolving the island's political crisis. Ravalomanana is currently living in exile in South Africa while he seeks international support [AFP report] for a return to Madagascar.
Ravalomanana stepped down as president in March, passing control of the government to the military after months of violence in hopes it would run the nation under a military directorate. The military subsequently passed power to Andry Rajoelina [official profile, in French], a former mayor of Madagascar's capital city of Antananarivo who had led protests against Ravalomanana's government. Although Madagascar's constitution [text, PDF] requires that the president be at least 40 years of age, the High Constitutional Court [official website] in March approved [JURIST report] Rajoelina's presidency.