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Son of Senegal's former president sentenced to 6 years in prison for corruption conviction

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DAKAR, Senegal — The son of Senegal's powerful former president was convicted Monday on corruption charges and sentenced to six years in prison with a fine of nearly $230 million in a verdict that could reopen the wounds of the hard-fought 2012 elections.

Karim Wade, who held several high level Cabinet positions in the government of his father Abdoulaye Wade, was charged with illegally accumulating a fortune of at least $200 million. Minister of Justice Sidiki Kaba said in the evening that Senegal will ask foreign countries to help it recover any funds that Karim Wade has cached abroad to pay the fine.

The conviction prompted many young supporters to take to the streets of some neighborhoods in Dakar where they burned tires and threw stones at police, who responded with tear gas. One woman was injured, but most of the city remained calm.

Karim Wade's supporters say his trial is part of a political vendetta waged by President Macky Sall against his old rival and denounced the verdict as soon as it was read.

"We will fight for his freedom, it is a notorious injustice," said Mamadou Fall, a young opposition activist in the court room. "The verdict is an insult to Senegalese democracy and human rights."

On Saturday, Wade's Senegalese Democratic Party chose Karim Wade as their candidate for the next presidential elections despite the ongoing corruption trial.

His legal team has boycotted the trial on the grounds the verdict was determined ahead of time, but after the trial they said they would appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

Karim Wade, who was first imprisoned in 2013 and has been on trial in a special corruption court since July 2014, was also not present at Monday's session, but his father attended and condemned the judge's decision.

"Macky Sall has imprisoned Karim to prevent him from being a presidential candidate - this is cinema," he said, calling on his supporters to stand up and "continue the fight," without going into specifics. He promised a public statement on Friday.

One of Karim Wade's lawyers was arrested last week, allegedly for hinting that a conviction would result in the overthrow of President Sall.

Senegal's next election is expected in 2017, pending a referendum to reduce the presidential term from seven to five years.

Sall overwhelmingly beat Wade with more than 60 percent of the vote in 2012 but two years into his term, his popularity is faltering amid complaints he hasn't done enough to improve the lot of ordinary Senegalese.

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