The trial of the Senegalese opposition leader is over, a verdict is expected next week

A Senegalese court says the trial of the country’s top opposition leader is over and a verdict is expected next week

ByBABACAR DIONE Associated Press

Dakar, Senegal — The much-anticipated trial of the Senegalese opposition leader ended on Tuesday night, and the verdict is expected next week, the court announced on Wednesday.

Ousmane Sonko is charged with rape and death threats and faces up to 10 years in prison. If convicted, Sonko will be barred from running in next year’s presidential election.

The 20-hour hearing included testimony from Sonko’s accuser, a woman working in a massage parlor and a dozen witnesses. Sonko did not attend, staying at home in the southern city of Ziguinchor, where he is the mayor. Condemned in absentia.

Sonko said he was protesting against injustice. He recently received a 6-month suspended prison sentence in a defamation case and stated that he will no longer respond to court summonses.

Supporters have called for demonstrations against the lawsuit, which they say will prevent him from running for office.

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The demonstrations turned violent even before the trial. Last week, a police officer was killed and several protesters were injured during clashes between security forces and supporters, according to a statement from the Ministry of the Interior and press reports.

Sonko says his legal problems are part of an effort by President Macky Sall’s government to derail his candidacy in the 2024 elections. The opposition figure called on Sall to publicly declare that he does not intend to serve a third term.