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Opposition leader, Lionel Zinsou 

A court in Benin has handed a top opposition politician a suspended six-month jail term over campaign breaches and banned him from standing for elections for five years, in the latest case targeting rivals of President Patrice Talon.

Former Prime Minister Lionel Zinsou, who lives in France, was found guilty of using false documents and “exceeding” spending limits in his 2016 bid for the West African nation’s presidency, judicial sources told AFP news agency.

Critics say Friday’s ruling is part of a concerted crackdown by former business magnate Talon that has driven key opponents into exile.

In October, multimillionaire Sebastien Ajavon, who has voiced his ambitions for the top job, was sentenced in absentia to 20 years for drug trafficking.

Former President Thomas Boni Yayi left Benin in June, ostensibly for medical treatment, after being kept under de-facto house arrest after he criticised one-sided parliamentary elections that sparked bloody street protests.

Hardening stance

Talon, who made his fortune in cotton, came to power in 2016 on a modernising platform as he vowed to stamp out corruption and mismanagement in a country that has a reputation as one of the region’s most stable democracies.

Zinsou, who also holds French citizenship, finished second behind Talon in the 2016 presidential race but has remained in Paris in the face of his legal problems.

Aljazeera