Senegal’s public prosecutor on Wednesday asked judges overseeing the rape trial of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko to find him guilty and sentence him to 10 years in jail, which would likely bar him from running for president in elections next year.
The verdict is expected on June 1.
Sonko, 48, is accused of sexually assaulting and making death threats to a woman who worked in a massage parlour in 2021. He denies wrongdoing and has boycotted the court proceedings.
Particularly popular among youths, Sonko has been embroiled in a legal saga he says is a ploy to bar him from polls in February 2024. He was handed a suspended prison sentence in a separate libel case this month, which he has appealed.
Violent protests have taken place in Senegal since Sonko was first detained for alleged rape in 2021. Supporters usually take to the street when he is in court, although no unrest occurred when the rape trial resumed in Sonko’s absence on Tuesday.
Testimony continued late into the night as judges heard Sonko’s accuser and the massage parlour’s former owner Khady Ndiaye among others.
Dressed in red, the accuser provided a detailed account of the alleged aggression and said she was raped five times.
The doctor who consulted her on the evening of the alleged event said he had found traces of sperm.
Ndiaye, accused of complicity in the matter, denied any of the services provided by her former employees involved sexual acts.
Sonko’s lawyers were unable to speak on his behalf due to his absence, which also means he will not be able to appeal if convicted.
At 3 a.m., the public prosecutor called on judges to sentence Sonko to 10 years in prison for rape, or five years for moral corruption, and a fine equivalent to over $3 300 if the rape charge was not upheld.
The case was adjourned for deliberation after his statement.
Sonko and his party have not yet reacted to the proposed sentence.
President Macky Sall and his government have denied Sonko’s accusations that the trials are politically motivated.
Sall, 61, who was first elected in 2012, won a second term in a 2019 presidential election in which Sonko came third.
A new constitution adopted in 2016 limits presidential terms to two. However, there are concerns Sall could argue that the constitutional reform resets his presidential mandate, allowing him to run again.