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Senegal: Judge overturns removal of opposition figure Ousmane Sonko from electoral roll

Opposition leader, Ousmane Sonko, looks on during a meeting in Ziguinchor on May 24, 2023.   -  
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A judge in the southern town of Ziguinchor on Thursday evening overturned the removal of imprisoned opposition politician Ousmane Sonko from Senegal's electoral rolls, preventing him from standing as a presidential candidate, his lawyers and his dissolved party said.

Lawyers for Mr. Sonko, who came third in the 2019 presidential election, said their client could once again stand for election in February 2024. In a statement published by news websites, however, the State's judicial agent said that the State would appeal against the judge's decision and that Mr. Sonko could still not be a candidate.

On Thursday, Mr. Sonko's lawyers challenged his disbarment before a court in Ziguinchor, the town where he is mayor and where he was registered. This action was presented by part of the press as representing the opponent's last chance to stand as a candidate.

The court "declared Mr. Ousmane Sonko's removal from the electoral rolls null and void and ordered his reinstatement, which should take immediate effect", one of his defenders, Me Ciré Clédor Ly, said in a message on Friday.

"The Ziguinchor district court ruled on the law and only on the law (...) There was no justification for removing President Ousmane Sonko from the electoral rolls," said El Malick Ndiaye, a leading figure in Mr. Sonko's dissolved party.

Mr. Sonko was found guilty on June 1 of debauching a minor and sentenced to two years in prison. Having refused to appear at the trial, which he denounced as a plot to keep him out of the election, he was sentenced in absentia.

Mr. Sonko was imprisoned at the end of July on other charges, including calling for insurrection, criminal association in connection with a terrorist enterprise and undermining state security.

The authorities are questioning his responsibility in a series of protest episodes since 2021 - the most serious in June - which have resulted in several deaths.

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