Bissau court clears leading party candidate for April vote

BISSAU Thu Mar 13, 2014 11:07am EDT

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BISSAU (Reuters) - Guinea-Bissau's highest court has cleared the way for the candidate of the West African nation's largest political party to contest next month's presidential election, quashing a legal appeal to block his candidacy.

Guinea-Bissau's attorney general had asked the Supreme Court to stop Jose Mario Vaz, a former finance minister, from contesting April's vote because of his suspected involvement in the embezzlement of a $12.5 million budget grant from Angola.

Vaz, chosen last week as presidential candidate for the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC), has denied any wrongdoing.

"The Attorney General of the Republic did not have the legitimacy to intervene in the selection of candidates for presidential elections," the seven judges of the court said in the ruling published late on Tuesday.

Guinea-Bissau, one of the world's poorest countries will go the polls on April 13 in a long-delayed legislative and presidential election intended to draw a line under a 2012 military coup.

The coup-prone former Portuguese colony has gained notoriety as a transit point in the smuggling of South American cocaine into Europe.

(Reporting by Alberto Dabo; Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Daniel Flynn)

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