September 9, 2010 / 10:51 PM / in 8 years

Guinea election chief jailed over irregularities

CONAKRY, Sept 9 (Reuters) - Two senior Guinean election officials were sentenced to a year’s imprisonment each on Thursday over irregularities in the first round of the presidential election in June, two political parties said.

The sentences imposed on Ben Sekou Sylla, president of the CENI election commission, and his head of planning El Hadj Boubacar Diallo, raised tension before the Sept. 19 vote run-off.

Court officials were not available to provide details of the charges of which they were convicted.

“Such a sentence is perfectly normal,” said Moustapha Naite, a spokesman for the RPG party of presidential candidate Alpha Conde, which filed complaints against Sylla and Diallo for their handling of the June 27 first round.

Conde was runner-up in that round with 18.25 percent of the vote. His opponent in the run-off is former Prime Minister Cellou Dalein Diallo, who received 43.69 percent in the June ballot.

Souleymane Bah, a spokesman for Diallo’s UFDG party, confirmed the sentences handed down by the court in the Dixinn suburb of the capital, Conakry. “That is correct. We are preparing a statement with our lawyers,” Bah said by telephone.

A Guinea Supreme Court ruling last month invalidated votes cast in five constituencies where irregularities and accusations of fraud had surfaced.

Guinea, the world’s largest exporter of the aluminium ore bauxite, is seeking to return to civilian rule after a coup ushered in a military government following the December 2008 death of longtime leader Lansana Conte.

Diallo and Conde are from the large Peul and Malinke ethnic groups respectively and there are fears of clashes between the two communities if the run-off outcome is disputed.

Last week the two signed a declaration promising that any challenges to the result would be conducted through legal channels. (Reporting by Saliou Samb; writing by Mark John; editing by Andrew Dobbie)

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