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Sierra Leone convicts six in land dispute

Sierra Leone convicts six in land dispute

Sierra Leone

A Sierra Leone court has convicted six people opposed to a palm oil project in which French conglomerate Bollore owns a major stake.

The six stood trail for destroying trees and inciting locals.

In a ruling on Thursday, the court found the defendants, who include a former lawmaker, guilty of destroying 40 palm oil trees belonging to Socfin in the Pujehun District.

An official said thousands of trees had been damaged during the 2013 incident.

A growing number of African land lease deals for mining and agribusiness have provoked tensions in the past.

The six defendants received sentences ranging from five to six months in addition to fines.

“I am a little bit disappointed with the judgement even though the sentence is lenient,” said Joseph Rahall, head of Green Scenery which paid the defendants’ legal costs and led campaigns against large land acquisitions by global firms.

Socfin manages around 180,000 hectares of palm oil and rubber plantations in Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Nigeria, Cameroon and Democratic Republic of Congo and in Asia in Indonesia and Cambodia.