A highly-anticipated trial of Senegal’s main opposition leader ended Tuesday evening with a verdict expected next week, a court said Wednesday.
Ousmane Sonko is being tried for rape and death threats and could face up to 10 years in prison. If convicted, Sonko would be barred from running in next year’s presidential elections.
The 20-hour hearing included testimonies from Sonko’s accuser, a woman working at a massage parlor, and a dozen witnesses. Sonko did not attend, remaining home in the southern city of Ziguinchor where he is the mayor. He will be sentenced in absentia.
Sonko said he was protesting against injustice. He recently received a 6-month suspended prison sentence in a defamation case and declared he would no longer respond to court summonses.
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His supporters have called for demonstrations against the trial, which they say aim to prevent him from running for office.
Demonstrations have already turned violent in the leadup to the trial. Last week one police officer was killed and several protestors were injured during clashes between security forces and supporters, according to an interior ministry statement and media reports.
Sonko maintains his legal troubles are part of an effort by President Macky Sall’s government to derail his candidacy in the 2024 election. The opposition figure has urged Sall to state publicly that he will not seek a third term in office.