A court has sentenced a leading rival of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in absentia to two years in prison, effectively sidelining him in a future leadership battle.

The sentence against Mohammed Dahlan was handed down by a West Bank court in March but was not made public until Wednesday, in the official Palestinian Authority newspaper.

The court convicted Dahlan, who is based in the United Arab Emirates, of defamation because he alleged in an interview that Palestinian security forces help protect Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank.

The complaint was filed by six top security commanders loyal to Abbas and was seen as a political maneuver.

Dahlan, 52, was banished in 2010 after suggesting Abbas' sons profited financially from their father's position.

Dahlan could not be reached for comment.