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UPDATED: 15:40, March 19, 2005
Sao Tome's ex-PM gets suspended sentence for damaging top lawyer's office
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The former prime minister of Sao Tome and Principe Guilherme Posser da Costa was given a suspended two-year jail term on Friday for causing criminal damage to the office of the country's attorney general in November,2004, but ordered to pay about 1,500 euros compensation.

According to reports reaching here on Sunday, Posser da Costa, also the leader of the Movement for the Liberation of Sao Tome and��Principe (MLSTP), faced charges of assault on Attorney General Adelino Pereira during his three-day trial, but was only convicted��of damaging Pereira's office and "insulting public authority."

MLSTP chief Posser da Costa accused the attorney general of having falsely accused him of involvement in an aid fraud scandal,the matter which originally led him to visit Pereira's office in an attempt to confront him over the charges - which Posser da Costa had denied. Saying that "I respect the court's decision, butit has been proved that the attorney general lied when he said I was a suspect in the aid fund embezzlement case."

He also accused Sao Tome's President Fradique de Menezes, closely linked to the main opposition Democratic Movement of Forces of Change (MDFM), of unscrupulously attempting to discredit his likely rivals in presidential polls expected in 2006.

The reports said that during his trial, Posser da Costa maintained he had never been a suspect in the aid fund fraud, as

claimed by the attorney general, but merely a witness in an investigation into a scandal that led to the sacking of ex-prime minister Maria das Neves last year.

Posser da Costa stood down as a lawmaker last month shortly before having his parliamentary immunity lifted to face questioning on his alleged involvement in defrauding the government's foreign aid fund, the GGA.

As leader of the MLSTP, Posser da Costa would likely be Menezes' main rival in next year's elections.

Elected as president in 2001, Menezes has already fired five prime ministers.

Menezes himself was accused by ex-prime minister Neves last year of illegally transferring 100,000 US dollars from an oil company to his own private company.

Sao Tome, a twin-island republic with only 150,000 inhabitants,is widely seen as Africa's newest oil producing country due to its joint oil exploration project with Nigeria in the Gulf of Guinea.

Source: Xinhua

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