NIAMEY (Reuters) - Niger's appeals court on Monday sentenced an exiled former presidential candidate to a year in jail for child trafficking, the final ruling in a long-running case that his lawyers have dismissed as politically motivated.
Hama Amadou, the main challenger to President Mahamadou Issoufou in last year's presidential election, has been living in France since last year when he left Niger for health reasons just days before a run-off.
He has repeatedly denied charges that he and his wife were part of a plot, including several others, to falsely claim the parenthood of around 30 children from neighbouring Nigeria who were to be sold on to wealthy couples in Niger.
The verdict was read in the absence of Amadou's lawyers, who had boycotted the trial in protest. The case was initially dropped by a Niger court in 2015, but was reinstated by the appeals court later in the year.
Issoufou took power in April 2011, and has worked closely with Western nations to boost security in the vast, arid Sahel region where Islamist militants are intensifying their insurgency.
Reporting by Boureima Balima; Writing by Edward McAllister; Editing by Alison Williams