Senegal’s opposition leader Ousmane Sonko is accused of rape
A Senegalese judge has ordered a prominent opposition leader, Ousmane Sonko, to stand trial for alleged rape, lawyers for Sonko and his accusers said Wednesday.
Sonko – who came third in Senegal’s 2019 presidential election – has enjoyed a rapid political rise thanks in part to his popularity among youth and has declared himself a candidate for the 2024 election.
But he has also run into legal trouble. Above all, he has been accused of rape by an employee of a beauty salon where he went for a massage.
Sonko, a 48-year-old former tax inspector, has denied the accusation and says he is the victim of a plot by President Macky Sall.
The judge on Tuesday signed an order to send Sonko’s case to a criminal court for alleged crimes he was charged with in 2021, including rape and death threats, the plaintiff’s lawyer El Hadji Diouf said.
“She is satisfied. She appreciates the fact that despite the campaign of lies and manipulation by Sonko’s supporters who are afraid of the trial, the judge stood firm,” he said.
One of Sonko’s lawyers, Cheik Khoureyssi Ba, confirmed the move.
Ba emphasized that the order was subject to legal challenge and said Sonko’s legal team intended to appeal.
Sonko has described the rape allegation as part of a plan to torpedo his 2024 candidacy.
The polarizing politician is considered a populist zealot by his critics.
Sonko’s supporters praise his efforts to speak out about corruption and social elitism, as well as to crack down on the economic and political grip of multinational corporations and Senegal’s former colonial power, France.
His indictment in March 2021 sparked violence in which a dozen people were killed.
Senegal has a general reputation for stability in a region where political turmoil is widespread.
In recent years, several other prominent opponents of the president have had their political careers cut short by court cases.
The authorities have denied any abuse of state institutions in the legal proceedings against Sonko.