DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Clashes between police and supporters of the opposition leader in Senegal left one person dead and several injured, friends of the victim told The Associated Press on Saturday.
Aliou Bodian was killed on Friday in the southern city of Kolda, friend Boubacar Balde said. “It’s a sad atmosphere that has gripped the family,” he said.
Opposition leader Ousmane Sonko had called on his supporters to follow him in a “freedom caravan” from his southern hometown of Ziguinchor, where he is mayor, to the capital Dakar, some 750 kilometers (465 miles) away. A verdict on those against him is due next week charges expected.
Sonko is on trial for raping and threatening to kill a woman who works in a massage parlor and faces up to 10 years in prison. If convicted, he would be barred from running in next year’s presidential election.
Sonko did not attend the trial last week and was sentenced in absentia. He said he protests the injustice and will no longer respond to subpoenas. He and his supporters claim his legal troubles are part of President Macky Sall’s administration’s efforts to quash his candidacy in the 2024 election.
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The opposition leader recently received a six-month suspended sentence in a defamation case against Tourism Minister Mame Mbaye Niang, whom he now owes around $330,000 in compensation.
It’s not clear how the clashes started on Friday, but Sonko’s Facebook page showed smoke from tear gas and a truck blocking the road where the caravan and hundreds of supporters were traveling.
Local media reported that several police cars and security forces were stationed in the area.
In the run-up to the trial, there were already violent demonstrations. The Senegalese government says it will steadfastly oppose any attempt to disrupt public order.
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