French-Spanish lawyer Juan Branco, deported on Monday from Senegal where he was arrested and imprisoned for defending opposition figure Ousmane Sonko, arrived at Paris' Roissy Charles-de-Gaulle airport on Tuesday morning, raising his fist to the press but making no statement.
He arrived shortly before 9:00 a.m. and was greeted by members of his family and a few supporters, AFP journalists observed. "Juan Branco, you are our warrior", said a woman, filming and following him, as did a few others.
The lawyer raised his fist, but did not speak to the press. He got into a cab as soon as he left the airport.
Me Branco has been the target of a Senegalese judicial investigation since mid-July, and was arrested in Mauritania on Sunday after several days of searching. Handed over to the Senegalese authorities, who accuse him of having entered the country illegally, he was charged on Sunday with attack, conspiracy, spreading false news and acts and maneuvers likely to compromise public security or cause serious political unrest, according to his lawyers.
In Senegal, the Franco-Spanish lawyer is taking part in the defense of Ousmane Sonko, a Senegalese opponent engaged since 2021 in a tug-of-war with the authorities and the judiciary that has given rise to several episodes of deadly violence.
He attracted particular attention in June when he announced a complaint in France and asked the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague to open an investigation against President Macky Sall for "crimes against humanity", at a time when the country had just experienced its worst unrest in years.
"No lawyer should be hindered in his mission, wherever he is and whoever he is," had written on X (ex Twitter) the Paris bâtonnière, Julie Couturier.
France Insoumise leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon denounced the arrest of Me Branco, writing: "An accused person has the right to a defense. The authoritarian drift of power no longer has any restraint" in Senegal.
A petition on change.org, demanding his "immediate release" had gathered over 19,000 signatures in two days. The text argued that he should "be free to defend himself in his words and movements" and referred to "political persecution".
Familiar with high-profile polemics, Juan Branco had enjoyed a bestseller in France with a pamphlet hostile to President Emmanuel Macron, "Crépuscule".