Dakar, Senegal – (African Boulevard News) – The rape trial of Senegalese opposition leader Ousmane Sonko has resumed in a court despite him failing for the second time to attend proceedings. His absence has sparked criticism and protests across the country.
The trial was briefly postponed in April after supporters of Sonko clashed with police outside the courthouse, leading to a wave of demonstrations across the West African country. Sonko claimed that the charges of rape and making threats against his accuser were politically motivated.
Despite his continued absence from court, the trial resumed on Tuesday with the prosecution presenting their case. The court heard testimony from a key witness, Adji Sarr, who accused Sonko of repeatedly raping her, threatening her and offering her money to keep quiet.
Sarr, a 20-year-old beauty salon worker, filed a complaint against the politician in February, stating that he assaulted her at a massage parlor in Dakar. Sonko, who finished third in the last presidential election and is considered a leading opposition figure in Senegal, denies the allegations, claiming they are part of a plot by President Macky Sall to remove him from politics.
The case has divided Senegal, with supporters of Sonko accusing the government of using the legal system to silence opposition leaders, while his opponents argue that the charges need to be investigated and if proven, Sonko should face the consequences.
Meanwhile, protesters took to the streets on Tuesday demanding Sonko’s release and denouncing the government’s handling of the case. Police used tear gas to disperse the crowds, leading to at least one person being injured.
Human rights groups have criticized the government’s response to the protests, setting up an inquiry into the use of force by security forces and calling for the release of all those arrested.
“This trial is about more than one man and one woman,” said Amnesty International’s Alioune Tine. “It is about the rights of women to be protected from sexual violence and to have equal access to justice.”
The trial is set to continue on Thursday with Sonko’s legal team expected to present their defense.