Senegal declared the restriction of mobile data services on Monday due to the presence of “hateful and subversive” messages on social media platforms, following calls for protests after the arrest of opposition politician Ousmane Sonko on Friday.
The public prosecutor announced seven new charges against Sonko on Saturday, including allegations of calling for insurrection.
Sonko is a presidential candidate and vocal critic of President Macky Sall.
“Due to the dissemination of hateful and subversive messages on social networks… mobile data internet is being temporarily suspended during certain hours from Monday July 31”, the minister of Telecommunications and the Digital Economy said in a statement.
Scheduled for Monday, Sonko is set to undergo interrogation by a judge who will subsequently determine whether to file charges or not.
On Monday morning, a significant police presence, comprising anti-riot vehicles and barricades, was reported by media around the courthouse in the capital city, Dakar.
Cire Cledor Ly, one of Sonko’s lawyers, asserted that the defense team had not been able to communicate with or adequately prepare the politician for the hearing.
“It is a scandal”, he told reporters outside the court.
In an unrelated matter, on June 1, Sonko was sentenced in absentia to two years in prison for morally corrupting a young woman, rendering him ineligible to run in next year’s election.
The sentencing in that case led to clashes resulting in 16 fatalities, as reported by the government, 24 fatalities as per Amnesty International, and 30 fatalities according to Sonko’s PASTEF party.
The prosecutor stated on Saturday that his arrest a day earlier had “no connection” to the moral corruption proceedings.
On Sunday, Sonko declared that he would commence a hunger strike and urged his supporters to “rise up” and “resist oppression.”
He has encountered a series of legal challenges, which he asserts are orchestrated to prevent him from participating in politics.