A court in Senegal on Thursday sentenced opposition leader Ousmane Sonko, a candidate in the 2024 presidential election, to two years in prison on charges of “corrupting youth” but acquitted him of rape and issuing death threats.
It also sentenced Sonko’s co-accused, Ndeye Khady Ndiaye, the owner of the beauty salon where Sonko was accused of repeatedly abusing an employee, to two years’ imprisonment.
The two-year-old case has deeply divided the West African state and triggered violent protests that have battered its image for stability.
Much attention has focused on whether Sonko, if convicted, would be technically barred from contesting next year’s vote.
If Sonko had been convicted in absentia of a crime such as rape, he would have been stripped of his electoral rights.
“Corrupting youth” — debauching or encouraging the debauchery of a person under the age of 21 — is a lesser offence than rape, a lawyer present at the hearing, Ousmane Thiam, told AFP.
Even so, his conviction also appears to threaten his eligibility, according to Senegal’s electoral code.