Comoros ex-president Sambi imprisoned for life for 'high treason'
Ex-president Ahmed Abdallah Sambi was sentenced by the State Security Court, a special judicial body whose verdicts are not appealable.
A Comoros court sentenced ex-President Ahmed Abdallah Sambi to life in prison for high treason on Monday. Sambi was convicted of selling passports to stateless people living in the Gulf.
Sambi, 64, President Azali Assoumani's archrival, was sentenced by the State Security Court, a special judicial body whose verdicts are not appealable.
"Sambi is sentenced to life imprisonment," said court president Omar Ben Ali, announcing the judgment, which also removed the former leader's right to vote and hold public office.
"The court orders his property and assets to be confiscated to the benefit of the public treasury."
Sambi was convicted in absentia after refusing to appear in court. He made a brief appearance at the first hearing, where his attorneys unsuccessfully requested that the judge recuse himself because he had previously served on the panel that indicted their defendant.
"The composition of the court is illegal. I do not want to be tried by this court," Sambi said before boycotting further sessions.
Sambi, who ruled the small Indian Ocean archipelago from 2006 to 2011, enacted legislation in 2008 that allowed the sale of passports for high fees.
The scheme was aimed at the bidoon, an Arab minority numbering in the tens of thousands who are unable to obtain citizenship.
The former president was accused of embezzling millions of dollars under the scheme.
According to the prosecution, the loss to the public purse totaled more than $1.8 billion, which is more than the impoverished country's GDP.