Freetown - Sierra Leone's highest court ruled on Wednesday that President Ernest Bai Koroma was within his rights to sack the vice president in a judicial decision likely to bolster the executive's political authority.
The decision to fire Samuel Sam-Sumana in March provoked outrage because it appeared to violate the 1991 constitution. Showing the tension the issue has provoked, armed police ringed the court during the hearing.
Sierra Leone has been plagued by political instability, including military coups and civil war that ended in 2002 and the country has since 2014 been fighting an outbreak of the Ebola virus that now appears to be in its final stages.
Koroma dismissed Sam-Sumana, claiming he had abandoned his duties by requesting asylum at the US Embassy. The ruling All People's Congress had earlier expelled him from the party because they said he had created his own political movement.
Chief Justice Valesius Thomas affirmed that under normal circumstances the president cannot sack the vice president. But due to the expulsion parliament was unable to impeach him and so Koroma had the authority to dismiss him, Thomas said.
A lawyer for the former vice-president, Sulaiman Banja Tejan-Sie, said he was saddened by the ruling and might appeal it to the court of the Economic Community of West African States.