DAKAR – Senegal’s main opposition leader Ousmane Sonko was arrested Wednesday on charges of disturbing the public order after hundreds of his supporters clashed with police while he was heading to the court to face rape charges.
Sonko’s lawyer said he was also arrested for participating in unauthorized demonstrations.
Sonko, who placed third in the 2019 elections, was accused of rape last month by an employee at a beauty salon. He was summoned by a judge to appear in court for questioning Wednesday after his parliamentary immunity was lifted last week. Sonko has been a strong opponent of President Macky Sall since 2012 and he and his supporters have said the charges are politically motivated.
Protesters gathered near Sonko’s home on Wednesday and followed his convoy toward the tribunal. When he wanted to take the road past the Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar to drum up more support, he was blocked by the gendarmerie.
“My car has been blocked for over an hour by the gendarmerie commanded by the prefect of Dakar. This prefect was surprised saying that they are going to issue a warrant to pick me up by force. No one has the right to choose a route for me,” Sonko posted on Facebook before his arrest.
Police fired tear gas at his supporters who were seen throwing rocks at police and burning tires.