A Senegalese court on Thursday sentenced the country’s leading opposition leader Ousmane Sonko to two years in jail for “corrupting youth”, thrashing his chances of running for president next year, reported Reuters.
The 48-year-old Sonko was accused of raping a woman who worked in a beauty salon in 2021 and making death threats against her. He has denied wrongdoing and said that the case was aimed at blocking his presidential ambitions.
While the court acquitted the Senegalese political leader of rape charges and issuing death threats, it found him guilty of a separate criminal offense described in the penal code as immoral behavior towards individuals younger than 21. His supporters are disappointed by the ruling.
‘Arrest Can Happen Anytime‘
Soon after the court announced the ruling, Justice Minister Ismaila Madior Fall told reporters that Sonko’s arrest can happen anytime.
“The sentence must be carried out. This is an in absentia case, and the measure can be carried out at any time,” the minister said.
The court’s ruling has triggered violent protests. Supporters of Sonko came out on the streets in large numbers and threw stones at the police and set buses on fire. According to the Senegalese authorities, nine people have been killed in the protests so far.
Interior Minister Antoine Felix Abdoulaye Diome informed that the deaths took place in Dakar and Ziguinchor.
Commenting on the court’s ruling, Sonko’s political party, PASTEF, said the verdict was politically conspired. The party urged the people to take to the streets.
Notably, the Senegalese electoral code prevents individuals convicted of a criminal offense from running for political office.
The Senegalese government continues to refute the accusations that the cases against Sonko are politically motivated.
Sonko came third in the 2019 presidential elections. He accuses President Macky Sall of seeking to stay in office for an unconstitutional third term.