Senegal’s opposition leader Ousmane Sonko arrested

Senegal’s opposition leader and presidential hopeful, Ousmane Sonko, was arrested Friday, according to his lawyer.

Sonko was arrested by the gendarmerie at his home in the nation’s capital of Dakar, said Juan Branco. He was “picked from his home by elements of the gendarmerie and whisked (away) to an unknown destination,” Branco wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

Sonko had earlier tweeted that members of the gendarmerie “were preparing to break down his door.”

After returning from Friday prayers, he said intelligence officers stationed outside his home began filming him.

Last month, a court sentenced Sonko to two years in prison for “corrupting youth,” jeopardizing his presidential ambitions.

But a statement by the public prosecutor confirming the arrest indicated the opposition leader was apprehended for suspected crimes.

“For some time, acts, statements, writings, images, and maneuvers have been noted against Mr. Ousmane Sonko on several media and in various circumstances. These elements, in addition to the heavy impact on public order, the integrity of persons and property, constitute criminal offenses,” it said.

The statement alleged that Sonko violently stole a mobile phone of a female police officer late Friday, whose vehicle had broken down near his home, and immediately used it to send a subversive message on social networks, urging “people to be ready.”

“Thus, I instructed the Urban Security of the Central Police Station of Dakar to open without delay a thorough investigation for various offenses and crimes against him and all other persons involved,” it said.

Violent protests erupted in Dakar and other towns following his sentencing, leaving 16 dead and more than 350 injured.

Sonko, the president of the PASTEF-Patriots party, was charged with rape and making death threats against Adji Sarr, an employee of a beauty salon in the capital, in 2021.

But judges at the High Court in Dakar acquitted Sonko of the two charges.

The 48-year-old has refused to accept the verdict, claiming that the trial was politically motivated to derail his 2024 presidential bid.

Sonko was third in the 2019 election against incumbent President Macky Sall, who has ruled out running for a third term.

Authorities lifted the security perimeter Monday that had been set up around Sonko’s home in Dakar in May. 

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