From dawn, the capital was squared by the forces of order, certain districts were deserted by passers-by. In the vicinity of the Dakar courthouse, banks and businesses had lowered their curtains, transport was suspended and motorcycles were prohibited from circulating. The Easter holidays were anticipated, leading to the closure of the university and schools. In the Senegalese capital, many feared new clashes. Thursday, March 30, after three postponements, the trial between Ousmane Sonko and Minister of Tourism Mame Mbaye Niang for defamation resumed, while the opponent denounced a plot to dismiss him from the presidential race in February 2024.
During the night, one of Ousmane Sonko’s lawyers, the Frenchman Juan Branco, was turned back by the Senegalese authorities at Blaise-Diagne airport. A few bumps earlier, another, Me Ousseynou Fall, had been suspended by the Bar Association because of remarks made during the last hearing. The day promised to be inflammable, but opposition as power had this time chosen appeasement.
For Ousmane Sonko, there were no bad surprises. No window of his car smashed by a policeman as when he went to court on February 16, no house surrounded by the police, as on March 15. The opponent chose to stay at home, to “health reasons”. During the last hearing on March 16, the politician had denounced having been “victim of an assassination attempt” after receiving in the face “unidentified liquid” which led to him being hospitalized for several days.
An absence that led to the first heated exchange between lawyers on Thursday. The plaintiff’s lawyers considered that Mr. Sonko’s lawyers could not speak without the defendant being present, unless the court considered that his absence was justified.
After a few new battles between lawyers, the judge decided: what does the medical certificate matter, “we note that the defendant is not there, the defense lawyers do not have the right to speak and the case is retained”. While protesting, Mr. Sonko’s lawyers came out of the courtroom one after another shortly after 10 a.m., followed by opposition leaders who had come to watch the trial, including the former mayor of Dakar, Khalifa Sall, himself sentenced to five years in prison in 2018 for “embezzlement”. A conviction which had excluded him from the presidential race of 2019.
In the process, Mr. Niang’s lawyers began their pleadings to prove that Mr. Sonko was guilty of having defamed the Minister of Tourism, accusing him of having embezzled 29 billion CFA francs (44.2 million euros). euros). “But Mr. Sonko has no proof!” »launched one of the minister’s lawyers.
After more than an hour of pleadings, the prosecutor requested two years in prison, including one year for “defamation”three years in prison for “insults” and an arrest warrant. A heavy request heard by the judge who, a few minutes later, sent the verdict, sentencing Ousmane Sonko to a two-month suspended prison sentence and 200 million CFA francs (around 300,000 euros) in damages for “defamation”. He was acquitted of the offenses of insults and forgery.
Walked out of court surrounded by chanting supporters “Long live Mame Mbaye Niang! »the minister dressed in a white boubou quickly slipped away to let his lawyers speak. “Ousmane Sonko fled the debate because he has no arguments or evidence to provide to the court, said launched Me El Hadj Diouf. Ousmane Sonko is a liar who does not have the ability to provide evidence. »
“This sentence is heavy, because there is the word suspended sentence but, for all that, this sentence is measured, because it does not deprive him of his political and civic rights. The judges did not make a political decision but a judicial decision because the role of the judge is to appease”reacted to the exit of the hearing Me Pierre-Olivier Sur, French lawyer for the Minister of Tourism.
This conviction will therefore not prevent Mr. Sonko from running in the 2024 presidential election, in which he has already run. However, there remains a major obstacle in his path: he is still charged in another case for the rape of Adji Sarr, then an employee of a massage parlor where he went regularly.
“The Africa World”
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“Justice is instrumentalized by the regime of Macky Sall. After gassing Ousmane Sonko until he could not leave his home, the judge refused to take his medical certificate which shows he cannot be present. His rights have been violated”protests El-Malick Ndiaye, national secretary of the African Patriots of Senegal party for work, ethics and fraternity (Pastef), led by Ousmane Sonko.
Arrived third in the last presidential election, Mr. Sonko is now positioned as the main competitor of the current head of state Macky Sall, who casts doubts on his candidacy for a third term, very controversial. The face-to-face between power and its main opponent is therefore far from over. The opposition maintained its call to demonstrate on April 3, the eve of the national holiday. Another risky day.