Senegal's opposition leader gets detained as tensions grow.

Security police forcibly pulled Senegalese opposition lawmaker Ousmane Sonko from his vehicle Thursday after his supporters were dispersed by teargas, escalating tensions ahead of next year's presidential elections.

Feb 17, 2023 - 13:27
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Senegal's opposition leader gets detained as tensions grow.

The occurrences occurred following the delay of a politically contentious trial that might decide Sonko's eligibility for future presidential elections, the date of which was also announced on Thursday.

The politician, who came third in the presidential race in 2019 and has announced himself a contender for the 2024 campaign, is shown being forcibly taken from the backseat of his vehicle by uniformed personnel in video footage posted live on social media.

The incidents occurred amid rising tensions in the West African country, which has a broad reputation for stability in a region rife with political upheaval.

Initially, security police fired tear gas to disperse about a hundred Sonko supporters who tried to enter the court in Dakar.

Sonko, 48, has risen quickly in politics, partly due to his appeal among young people.

Yet, he has been summoned to court several times in the last two years.

Sonko is being sued in this case by Tourism Minister Mame Mbaye Niang for "defamation, insults, and falsification."

Like with previous sessions, there was a heavy police presence on Dakar's streets ahead of Thursday's proceedings.

Guards prevented supporters from entering the room, which was already filled with media and opposition members, after Sonko's entry to the court.

The trial eventually began, but the court postponed it until March 16.

Sonko was scheduled to appear in court on February 2 but did not arrive. His attorneys argued that he had not received a summons.

Sonko declared on Wednesday evening that he will appear in court on Thursday and invited "all Senegalese" to join him.

Sonko was arrested in March 2021 on rape charges, sparking violence in which a dozen people were killed.

A court has ordered him to stand trial in the rape case, though no date has been set.

Sonko alleges that the legal system is being exploited against him, which the authorities deny.

Several other notable opponents of the president have had their political careers cut short by judicial lawsuits in recent years.

Authorities also announced on Thursday that the next presidential elections have been scheduled on February 25, 2024.

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