DAKAR, Senegal — An appeals court in Senegal has upheld the five-year prison sentence for the mayor of the capital for forgery, criminal conspiracy, embezzlement and fraud.

Dakar Mayor Khalifa Sall, a popular opposition figure, was arrested in March 2017 on suspicion of embezzling 1.8 billion CFA francs ($3.4 million). His lawyers have said the missing public funds went to people in need.

Sall, who took office in 2009, has denied the allegations, calling the charges and trial politically motivated.

His lawyer Cledor Cire Ly on Thursday accused President Macky Sall, who is not related, of aiming to remove any major opponents ahead of the 2019 elections in the West African nation.

The mayor has been told to reimburse the state roughly $3.4 million.