BY BABACAR DIONE
Senegalese opposition leader Ousmane Sonko addresses journalists following his release from police custody in Dakar, Senegal. on March 8, 2021...(AP Photo/Sylvain Cherkaoui,File)
DAKAR, SENEGAL (AP) — Senegalese opposition leader Ousmane Sonko has returned to prison after weeks of undergoing medical treatment in the hospital during a hunger strike to protest his detention on charges he says are politically motivated.
The announcement comes just days before Senegal’s Supreme Court is due to rule on whether Sonko can take part in the upcoming February election despite being struck from the country’s voter rolls after his conviction on charges of corrupting youth earlier this year.
Prison authorities said Sonko’s transfer back to Cap Manuel prison in Dakar on Tuesday took place as “the result of a recommendation by his attending physician.”
“Wherever he is detained, the result is the same: President Ousmane Sonko remains a favourite candidate in the presidential election, arbitrarily detained and deprived of his rights by his political opponents,” said El-Malick Ndiaye, the press officer for Sonko’s opposition party.
Sonko finished third in the last presidential election, and his supporters believe that the slew of criminal allegations brought against him since 2021 are part of an orchestrated campaign to derail his political aspirations ahead of a presidential election in February.
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 of corrupting youth and sentenced to two years in prison, which ignited deadly protests across the country.
In late July, Senegalese authorities formally dissolved Sonko’s political party and placed him in detention. He is now facing charges of calling for insurrection, conspiracy against the state and other alleged crimes.
Senegal’s Interior Ministry removed Sonko from the voter rolls after his conviction earlier this year on charges of corrupting youth. However, the decision was later overturned by a judge in the southern city of Ziguinchor, where Sonko serves as mayor.
The judge ordered that Sonko be allowed to have sponsorship forms for the presidential election in the same way as other candidates. But his chances of taking part in the presidential election is uncertain. The Supreme Court is due to rule Friday on the Ziguinchor judge’s ruling.