DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Senegal’s opposition leader Ousmane Sonko has been charged with conspiracy against the state and calls for insurrections among other offenses, the public prosecutor said Saturday.
The announcement comes weeks after Sonko was convicted on separate charges of corrupting youth and sentenced to two years in prison, which ignited deadly protests across the nation.
Prosecutor Abdou Karim Diop made the announcement on state television, a day after Sonko’s lawyer said he was taken into custody for questioning at the police courthouse in the capital, Dakar.
In June, Sonko was acquitted on charges of raping a woman who worked at a massage parlor and making death threats against her. But he was convicted on a lighter sentence of corrupting young people, which includes using one’s position of power to have sex with people under age 21. Corrupting youth is a criminal offense in Senegal that is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to more than $6,000.
The conviction led to deadly clashes across the country between Sonko supporters and police, where at least 23 people were killed and dozens injured.
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 ongoing legal battles may bar him from running. Once in prison, he can ask for a retrial for his June conviction.
Saturday’s charges are separate, said the public prosecutor. The accusations include calling an insurrection, criminal conspiracy to commit terrorism, compromising public security and theft.
It is unclear what led to the charges. Sonko has mostly stayed in his house since being sentenced to prison.
In a tweet posted shortly before his arrest on Friday afternoon, Sonko said a team of soldiers were breaking down the door following an altercation with secret service agents who were taking videoing him.
Friday evening, an AP reporter saw around 20 protesters burning tires in the middle of the road in Parcelles Assainies, an outer neighborhood of Dakar.