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The rape trial of Senegal’s main opposition leader Ousmane Sonko that was due to open on Tuesday in the capital has been postponed until May 23.
The delay came after 24 hours of unrest linked to the case against the prominent politician in the West African nation in which the interior ministry says three people died, including a police officer killed by a reversing armored car.
Police and Sonko’s supporters clashed Monday in the southern city of Ziguinchor where youths threw stones and used tree trunks to barricade streets leading to Sonko’s house.
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In the capital, Dakar, around 20 buses were burned in the unrest, which saw protesters hurled stones and firebombs at police, with security forces responding with tear gas.
The judge of the criminal chamber of the Dakar high court postponed Sonko’s trial to give lawyers for key witnesses time to go over the court files.
A man drives his horse-drawn cart past a supermarket that was damaged during protests in Pikine, Senegal, on May 16, 2023. The rape trial for Ousmane Sonko has been postponed due to the unrest. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
Sonko was charged based on a woman’s accusations that he raped her in 2021 when she worked at a massage salon.
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If convicted, Sonko faces up to 10 years in prison and would be barred from running for president.
Sonko recently received a six-month suspended prison sentence in a defamation case, which could also block a 2024 run for the presidency unless he can successfully appeal the conviction.
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There was a heavy presence of security forces around Dakar on Tuesday, and the streets were calm after Monday’s unrest.