Charges announced against top Senegal opposition leader Sonko

AFP , Saturday 29 Jul 2023

Senegal's public prosecutor on Saturday announced seven new charges against opposition politician Ousmane Sonko, adding that they were unrelated to a moral corruption case last month that sparked deadly protests.

Ousmane Sonko
File photo: Senegalese opposition leader Ousmane Sonko addresses journalists following his release from police custody in Dakar, Senegal, on March 8, 2021. AP


The firebrand politician, a thorn in the flesh of President Macky Sall, has faced a string of legal woes, which he claims are aimed at keeping him out of politics.

His sentencing last month in a moral corruption case sparked clashes that left 16 dead according to the government, 24 according to Amnesty International, and 30 according to Sonko's PASTEF party.

On Saturday, the public prosecutor read out a list of charges to be made against Sonko over comments he had made, rallies he had held, and other episodes since 2021, including an incident at his home a day earlier that led to his arrest.

The charges include undermining state security, criminal association, acts to jeopardise public security and create serious political unrest, and theft.

"This arrest has nothing to do with the (moral corruption) proceedings, for which he was tried in absentia," prosecutor Abdoul Karim Diop said in Wolof.

Sonko was arrested on Friday for allegedly stealing the phone of a police officer and issuing a subversive message on social media, according to the prosecutor.

He is being held in custody.

On Friday afternoon, Sonko said on social media that security forces stationed outside his home were filming him.

He said he had taken one of the phones and demanded the images be deleted -- a request he said was denied.

"I ask the people to stand ready to face this endless abuse," Sonko wrote.

On June 1, Sonko was sentenced in absentia to two years in prison for morally corrupting a young woman, which makes him ineligible to stand in next year's presidential election.

He was blocked in his home by a security detail between May 28 and July 24 but he was not jailed, despite his conviction.

A former civil servant, Sonko rose to prominence in the 2019 presidential election, coming third.

He has portrayed Sall as a would-be dictator, while the president's supporters say Sonko has sown instability.

Sall in early July eased tensions in the normally stable West African nation by announcing he would not seek a controversial third mandate, following months of ambiguity and speculation about his intentions.

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