Senegal’s opposition leader, Ousmane Sonko, will face trial for alleged rape on May 16, according to El Hadji Diouf, the lawyer representing his accuser.
Sonko, who came third in the 2019 presidential election and has declared his candidacy for the 2024 election, was accused of rape by an employee of a beauty salon where he went for a massage.
He has denied the charge and said he is the victim of a plot by President Macky Sall, aimed at derailing his candidacy for the 2024 presidential election.
Sonko’s arrest in March 2021 led to several days of violent unrest, in which at least 12 people were killed. Sall’s party accuses Sonko of trying to paralyse the country and instigating violence to evade justice. In January, a judge transferred Sonko’s rape case to a criminal court.
On March 31, Sonko was given a two-month suspended sentence for defaming a tourism minister.
Several human rights groups have expressed concerns about restrictions on freedom of assembly and expression in Senegal and have urged Sall not to seek a third term.
Sall has not clarified his intentions regarding a third term, but he denies allegations that it would be unconstitutional for him to run again.