Senegal’s opposition leader Ousmane Sonko hospitalised

Senegal’s jailed opposition leader Ousmane Sonko, who has been on a hunger strike in prison to protest criminal charges against him, was hospitalized Sunday, his party said.

Sonko was imprisoned last week in advance of criminal proceedings against him on charges of calling for insurrection, conspiracy against the state and other charges.

The reason for his hospitalization at the Main Hospital in downtown Dakar was not immediately clear. “Prior to his imprisonment, he was in good health and had no known illnesses,” said the statement from Sonko’s now-dissolved Patriots of Senegal (PASTEF) party.

Sonko announced July 30 on the platform X, formerly known as Twitter, that he would start his hunger strike. The announcement came a day before a judge in the capital of Dakar ordered his imprisonment. 

The latest charges against Sonko came weeks after a judge convicted him in a separate case of corrupting youth and sentenced him to two years in prison, which ignited deadly protests across the nation. Last week, at least four people died and several were injured in fresh protests after Sonko was detained in a prison just outside Dakar. 

Sonko placed third in Senegal’s 2019 presidential election and is popular with the country’s youth. His supporters maintain the charges against him are part of a government effort to derail his candidacy in the 2024 presidential election.

Sonko’s health emergency comes the day after his lawyer, Juan Branco, was arrested in Mauritania and extradited to Senegal, where he is in a Dakar prison, according to Branco’s lawyer, Robin Bindard.

Bindard said Sunday that Branco is being held for alleged dissemination of false information, conspiracy against the state and other charges. 

“The mission of a lawyer… is sacred, and you can’t reproach a lawyer for defending his client,” said Bindard.

Interior Minister Antoine Felix Diome announced Branco’s arrest to applause in a National Assembly meeting Saturday.

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