Senegal’s main opposition leader, Ousmane Sonko, denies rape charges

Senegal’s main opposition leader, Ousmane Sonko, has appeared in a Dakar court over rape accusations with his lawyer calling the case a state “conspiracy” that should be dropped.

He is accused of raping an employee of a beauty salon where he was getting a massage and his arrest in March 2021 led to deadly riots.  Sonko insists the claims are entirely false and that Senegalese President Macky Sall is attempting to set a trap for him and his supporters.

Speaking at a press conference, Sonko, said:  “He (the senior judge) asked me: ‘Do I recognise that I had relations with the lady?’ I told him: ‘I don’t allow you to ask me such questions.’

“‘When a conspiracy case is so clear with evidence and you have no evidence, I do not allow you – given the status I have because in 16 months I aspire to be the president of Senegal – I do not allow you, Mr. Judge, to ask me this kind of question.'”

Thursday’s hearing in the Senegalese capital lasted three hours. A large security presence was deployed throughout the city, particularly around Sonko’s home and the court building.

But Sonko has refused to take a DNA test.

“Would I accept samples for a DNA test?” He said to reporters. “I said ‘but are you OK? In there, [pointing to his head] are you okay? You have no proof, you put absolutely nothing and you want me to give my blood to the plotters?'”

The authorities deny any misuse of state institutions in the case against Sonko, who came third in the 2019 presidential election and plans to run again in 2024.

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