Senegalese Opposition Leader Ousmane Sonko Arrested on Allegations of Phone Theft and “Subversive” Message

On July 28, 2023, Ousmane Sonko, a prominent opposition politician in Senegal, was arrested for purportedly stealing a gendarme’s phone and posting a message deemed “subversive” on social media.

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Sonko, known for his outspoken criticism of President Macky Sall, has faced numerous legal challenges that he believes are orchestrated to hinder his political involvement.

Fatal Clashes and Controversial Sentencing: Sonko’s Ongoing Struggles

Just a month prior to his recent arrest, Sonko was embroiled in a moral corruption case that resulted in fatal clashes between his supporters and security forces.

The government reported 16 deaths, while Amnesty International recorded 24 fatalities, and Sonko’s PASTEF party claimed the number was 30.

The sentencing in this case served as a trigger for the violent confrontations.

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The Alleged Phone Theft and Social Media Message

The Senegalese public prosecutor stated that Sonko stole a gendarme’s mobile phone after the officer’s vehicle broke down near Sonko’s residence.

Subsequently, a message deemed “subversive” was posted on social media from the said phone.

Sonko, on his part, had earlier complained on social media that security forces stationed outside his home were filming him.

He claimed to have taken one of the phones to delete the images, but his request was denied, leading to further tensions.

Sonko’s Party Reacts to the Arrest

Following Sonko’s arrest, his political party condemned the action, stating that he was “brutally arrested” and called on the people of Senegal to “constitutionally resist these abuses.”

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Sonko’s lawyers confirmed that he was already being interrogated and that he was in police custody.

Legal Complexities Surrounding Sonko

In addition to the moral corruption case, Sonko had been blocked in his home by a security detail between May 28 and July 24.

The sentence passed in absentia for morally corrupting a young woman resulted in a two-year prison term, rendering him ineligible to run in the upcoming presidential election.

If arrested in relation to that case, a retrial would likely be ordered.

Sonko’s Rise and President Sall’s Response

A former civil servant, Sonko gained prominence during the 2019 presidential elections, securing the third position with a campaign that strongly criticized President Sall and the country’s ruling elite.

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He portrayed President Sall as a potential dictator, while Sall’s supporters labeled Sonko as a rabble-rouser causing instability.

However, in early July, President Sall eased tensions by announcing that he would not seek a controversial third term, putting to rest months of speculation about his intentions.

As Senegal grapples with the aftermath of Sonko’s arrest and the political landscape continues to evolve, the situation remains closely monitored both within the country and internationally.

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