The trial of Senegalese opposition leader Ousmane Sonko on rape charges resumed in a court in Dakar despite the fact that he failed for the second time running to attend the proceedings.
There was a strong security presence in the capital amid fears of protests that have flared sporadically since the opposition leader and presidential candidate was first detained in 2021.
Sonko has been charged with rape and making death threats against an employee of a beauty salon in Dakar.
He denies all wrongdoing saying the trial is a political plot aimed at scuttling his bid for the 2024 presidency. The government has rejected the accusation.
On Friday, the opposition party leader said he would attend Tuesday’s hearing if his safety could be guaranteed. His lawyers say he did not receive a summons to appear in court.
“So, that’s why today the lawyers intervened to say firstly there was this element, this irregularity. And then there’s also the fact that there were security concerns which meant that Sonko could not come, even if he wanted to,” said his lawyer, Massokhna Kane.
In court, Sonko’s lawyers requested another adjournment, while the lawyer for former salon owner, Ndèye Khady Ndiaye, who is accused of complicity in the alleged rape, asked for more preparation time.
When the prosecutor dismissed their demands, both parties decided to withdraw from the case.
“All the defendants are free, there is absolutely no urgency to try this case today. So, what happened is, all the lawyers, both those of Ndèye Khady Ndiaye and of Ousmane Sonko, decided to withdraw from the room,” said Ndiaye’s lawyer, Macodou Ndour.
A conviction for Sonko could put an end to his plans to run again for president.
He came in third in the 2019 election against incumbent Macky Sall.