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Cambodian Court Sentences Prince in Absentia

The deposed leader of Cambodia's royalist party has been sentenced in absentia to 18 months in jail on breach of trust charges.

A Phnom Penh court judge (Sao Meach) also ordered Prince Norodom Ranariddh Tuesday to pay 150-thousand dollars to the Funcinpec party.

Funcinpec had sued the prince for allegedly pocketing about three-and-a-half million dollars from the sale of the party's headquarters. The judge did not convict the prince of embezzlement, but found him guilty of breach of trust, by intentionally registering new property bought with the party's funds under his own name.

Prince Norodom Ranariddh, who is not in Cambodia, has denied wrongdoing.

Funcinpec members voted him out of the party in October, complaining he spent more time outside the country than working in Cambodia.

Hoping for a political comeback last year, the former prime minister took over a small, little-known party and renamed it after himself.

Today's verdict would prevent him from running for public office in Cambodia unless he serves at least two-thirds of his jail term or receives a pardon from King Norodom Sihamoni, his half brother.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said Saturday he would not support a royal pardon for the prince.