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Senegal's Sonko Gets Suspended Sentence


FILE - Ousmane Sonko, president of the opposition party Senegalese Patriots for Work, Ethics and Brotherhood (PASTEF), gives a press statement, in Ziguinchor, Senegal, July 3, 2022.

UPDATED WITH NIANG ATTORNEY STATEMENTS: DAKAR - A Senegal court on Thursday handed a two-month suspended sentence to opposition leader Ousmane Sonko after a libel trial his lawyers said will not rule him out of the 2024 presidential election.

The 48-year-old Sonko was found guilty of defaming Tourism Minister Mame Mbaye Niang, a member of President Macky Sall's party.

"With two months suspended Sonko is still eligible," lawyers Bamba Cisse and Cheikh Khoureyssi Ba said.

The claim could not be immediately confirmed by AFP.

The court also ordered Sonko to pay 200 million CFA francs (300,000 euros) to the minister who accused him of defaming him in relation to his management of a community agriculture program.

One of the minister's lawyers, Pierre-Olivier Sur, said he was satisfied with the outcome and said that the outcome would allow Sonko to pursue his electoral ambitions.

"It is heavy and symbolic, but this sentence is measured to such a degree that it does not deprive (Sonko) of his civil, political rights and (his right) to remain in the political debate.

"If the decision had been too tough the whole town might have ignited and perhaps the country too," Sur told reporters.

Sonko and his supporters earlier accused the government of using the justice system to try to prevent him from running in next year's election.

Police were deployed in large numbers in the capital Dakar and had on Wednesday fired tear gas during clashes with students trying to hold a banned demonstration.

Violence flared in several cities since the trial opened on March 16.