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Senegal’s Ousmane Sonko charged with fomenting insurrection

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Senegal’s opposition leader Ousmane Sonko has been charged with plotting an insurrection and other new offences, according to the country’s public prosecutor.

The announcement on Saturday comes weeks after Sonko, 49, was convicted on a separate charge of immoral behaviour and sentenced to two years in prison in a move that sparked deadly riots across the country.

The new charges follow the detention of Sonko – who has been serving his sentence at home – for questioning at a police court in the Senegalese capital, Dakar, on Friday.

He remains in custody.

Abdou Karim Diop, Senegal’s public prosecutor, told reporters the new charges stem from comments Sonko made and rallies he held as well as other episodes since 2021, including an incident at his home before his arrest on Friday.

In addition to fomenting insurrection, the new charges include undermining state security, acts aimed at jeopardising public security and creating serious political unrest, criminal association with a terrorist body and theft.

“This arrest has nothing to do with the [moral corruption] proceedings, for which he was tried in absentia,” Diop said.

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There was no immediate comment from Sonko’s legal team.

His arrest on Friday followed a scuffle with security forces stationed outside his home, who he claimed were filming him without permission.

In June, the opposition leader was acquitted on charges of raping a woman who worked at a massage parlour 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 21 years old.

Corrupting youth is a criminal offence in Senegal which is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to more than $6,000.

The conviction led to clashes across the country between Sonko’s supporters and police in which at least 16 people were killed and dozens wounded.

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 has portrayed President Macky Sall as a would-be dictator, while the incumbent leader’s supporters say the opposition politician has sown instability.

Sall in early July eased tensions in the West African nation by announcing he would not seek a controversial third mandate following months of ambiguity and speculation about his intentions.

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