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Abbas rival sentenced to 2 years in absentia, blocking him from Palestinian succession battle

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FILE - In this Aug. 23, 2004 file photo, former Palestinian security chief Mohammed Dahlan gestures prior to a meeting with leader Yasser Arafat at his compound in the West Bank town of Ramallah.A court has sentenced a leading rival of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in absentia to two years in prison, effectively blocking him from a future leadership battle. The sentence against Mohammed Dahlan was handed down by a West Bank court in March, but was made public only Wednesday May 21, 2014 in the official Palestinian Authority newspaper. (AP Photo/Nasser Shiyoukhi, File)The Associated Press

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.