Senegalese opposition leader sentenced for “corruption of young people”

Ousmane Sonko

Ousmane Sonko, former tax inspector, popular with young people disenchanted with the idea of ​​​​finding work

A Senegalese court sentenced opposition leader Ousmane Sonko to two years in prison for “corruption of young people”, but cleared him of rape.

The ruling means he was found guilty of acting immorally towards a person under the age of 21.

The charges stemmed from allegations made by a massage therapist.

He denied any wrongdoing and said the case was aimed at blocking his presidential ambitions. His supporters are protesting the judgment.

Police reportedly clashed with them in the capital, Dakar. Sonko, who boycotted the trial, is staying at home in town.

One of his lawyers, Abdy Nar Ndiaye, said he was suspicious the judge had not ordered the 48-year-old politician’s immediate arrest.

“That means their goal is not to arrest Sonko, but to keep him out of the next election,” he said.

Police officers block the entrance to Cheikh Anta Diop University, Dakar 3, during the unrest following the sentencing of Ousmane Sonko - June 1, 2023

Protests erupted at a Dakar university over the sentencing

The government has dismissed accusations that the case against the opposition leader, and others he has faced, is politically motivated.

Sonko was accused of sexually assaulting and threatening a massage therapist at a beauty salon in 2021. She was 20 when she made the charges, which he denied.

He said he went to the salon for a massage for chronic back pain and the case against him was politically motivated, AFP news agency reports.

The owner of the beauty salon, Ndeye Khady Ndiaye, was also sentenced to two years in prison by the judge for the same offense of “corruption of youth”.

Sonko, who is hugely popular among unemployed youth, has enjoyed a meteoric political rise in recent years.

After his dismissal as a tax inspector in 2016, he was elected to parliament and became mayor of the southern town of Ziguinchor.

He ran in the 2019 presidential elections, finishing third.

Sonko accuses President Macky Sall of wanting to stay in office for an unconstitutional third term.

The president has yet to announce his intentions, but with political tensions rising across the country, he has invited opposition parties to talks this week. Sonko’s party refused to attend.

When Sonko was arrested in 2021 for disturbing public order, clashes left at least a dozen dead.

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