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Former French Minister Gets Jail In Angola Arms Trial


A Paris court sentenced a former French interior minister to a year of prison and delivered stiff sentences to other former high-level figures for their role in arms trafficking to Angola during the 1990s.

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Former French interior minister Charles Pasqua got a year in prison and a fine of $150,000 for his role in what France has dubbed Angolagate. But the toughest sentences of six years apiece were handed to two businessmen - Frenchman Pierre Falcone and Russian-Israeli Arkadi Gaydamak - for trafficking arms to war-torn Angola during the 1990s, to shore up the regime of President Eduardo Dos Santos. Angola's civil war, which stretched from 1979 to 2002, pitted the government against UNITA rebels.

Gaydamak, who lives in Russia, was sentenced in absentia.

Another high-level figure, Jean-Christophe Mitterand - the son of former French president Francois Mitterrand - received a suspended sentence and a $550,000 fine. Altogether, 42 people stood trial in the Angolagate affair. Some were acquitted. The main defendants all said they would appeal their sentences.

Reactions are beginning to trickle in, following the trial which began a year ago and has made headline news in France. French lawmaker Jacques Myard, a member of the ruling Union for a Popular Movement, or UMP party, expressed support for former minister Pasqua.

Myard described Pasqua as a friend and great republican who rendered service to France. He refused to comment on the court's judgment but said he remained loyal to Pasqua. Those sentenced were accused of profiting heavily from the arms shipments, which violated United Nations sanctions against Angola at the times.

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