By Enyichukwu Enemanna
Government prosecutor has urged the court to slam at least 10-year jail term on opposition leader Ousmane Sonko on allegation bordering on rape, a case that has sparked tensions in the West African country.
Shortly before adjournment of trial on Wednesday, president of the criminal court said the court will take a decision on the matter on June 1 after the hearing on Tuesday lasted till the early hours of Wednesday.
The trial resumed Tuesday after the court rejected pleas by Sonko and his co-accused for an adjournment.
Sonko who had declined appearance before the court for second time running, said he is being politically persecuted in an attempt to scuttle his presidential bid in the 2024 election.
Sonko has been charged with rape and making death threats against an employee of a beauty salon in Dakar.
Sonko, 48, has said he went to the salon for a massage for chronic back pain and denies any assault.
In his testimony before the court on Tuesday, the complainant, Adji Sarr insists that Sonko abused her five times and that she has been receiving threat messages.
Sonko’s trial opened on May 16 but was immediately adjourned until May 23 after he failed to attend.
He had said he would not appear in court without state guarantees for his personal safety.
He is believed to be in the southern city of Ziguinchor, several hundred kilometres (miles) from Dakar, where he is mayor.
If convicted, he will not be eligible to stand for election next year.
Sonko, president of the PASTEF-Patriots party, came third in the 2019 election against incumbent Macky Sall.
When Sonko was arrested in 2021, several days of protests left at least 12 people dead.
Three other people died during clashes between Sonko supporters and police ahead of the commencement of proceedings on May 16.
Political tensions have also been stoked by Sall’s refusal to rule out running for a third term as president, a move his opponents say would be unconstitutional.
Sall was elected in 2012, when the presidential term was seven years, and re-elected in 2019, when the mandate was reduced to five years.