A Senegalese court has ordered the reinstatement of jailed opposition leader Ousmane Sonko on the electoral register, a ruling that could pave the way for him to run in a February presidential election, his lawyer Cire Cledor Ly said on Thursday.
Sonko has faced multiple court cases over the past two years for charges including libel and rape, which he denies. The cases against him have triggered deadly violence in the West African nation.
The 49-year-old was cleared of rape in June, but sentenced to a two-year jail term after a court found him guilty of an offence described in the penal code as immoral behaviour towards individuals younger than 21.
He was arrested in July for insurrection and was struck off the electoral roll, a decision that potentially ruled him out of the February vote.
The court in the capital, Dakar, overturned that decision on Thursday, Ly told reporters outside the court. Sonko, who remains in jail, has previously gone on a hunger strike during his imprisonment.
The politician, who came third in Senegal’s 2019 presidential election, is popular with the youth. He is seen as a main opposition challenger in the race to succeed President Macky Sall who announced in July that he would not run for office next year.
“We have confidence in the justice system. This decision doesn’t surprise us. We were just afraid that they might use force against us. But this country won’t go anywhere if justice doesn’t work,” Sonko said.
Another lawyer for the firebrand opposition leader, Bamba Cisse, told journalists that the court’s decision would potentially enable Sonko to participate in the February 2024 presidential election.