Opposition leader arrested in Senegal

Ousmane Sonko has been detained following an altercation with a police officer, the prosecutor said

Senegalese leading opposition politician Ousmane Sonko was arrested in his home in the country’s capital Dakar on Friday, the public prosecutor’s office has confirmed. Sonko’s past detention and prosecution had sparked violent protests and deadly riots.

In a statement carried by the state broadcaster RTS, the prosecutor alleged that the 49-year-old had stolen a phone from a female police officer whose car had broken down in front of his home, and then “immediately sent a subversive message” to his supporters on social media.  

“As a result, I have instructed police headquarters in Dakar to open investigations without delay for various types of offenses and crimes,” the statement read.

Sonko’s detention was previously reported by several of his associates, including his head of protocol. Before his arrest, Sonko posted a photo on Twitter of uniformed police officers who he said were stationed outside his residence and were filming him. He wrote that he “snatched the phone,” and asked “to unlock it and delete the photos they took, which they had refused to do.” 

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On June 1, Sonko was found guilty of sexually assaulting a massage parlor worker and was sentenced to two years in prison. He denied any wrongdoing and said that the charges against him were politically motivated. Despite the sentence, the politician has not been transferred to jail. 

Sonko’s PASTEF party nominated him to run in the February 2024 presidential election, although the criminal conviction makes him ineligible.

His initial arrest in 2021 led to several days of riots and clashes with police, in which 12 people were killed. Last month’s guilty verdict also caused unrest, which left nine people dead.

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