State to challenge Ziguinchor court verdict

Oct 17, 2023, 11:29 AM

While the Ziguinchor judge's verdict is hailed as a courageous act by Ousmane Sonko's lawyers and many young people in the city, as well as by supporters of his party, state lawyers oppose it.

For defense lawyers, Judge Sabassy Faye's decision is seen as a breath of fresh air for justice and the judiciary. They believe that this decision should serve as a model for many judges and magistrates. 

However, Me Abdou Dially Kane, state the prosecutor, who represented the government during the hearing, believes that Judge Sabassy Faye was not impartial. He emphasizes that the latter's brother occupies the position of deputy mayor of the commune of Ziguinchor, which, according to him, justifies a challenge, a request submitted at the start of the session. Mr. Abdou Kane insists that the judge did not have time to analyse all the arguments put forward by both parties before rendering his decision. This decision, taken in just five minutes, is described as scandalous by the state's lawyer, who maintains that the judge seemed to already have a pre-established decision before the hearing even began. 

The State had nine days to file against the verdict but it did file it barely a day after the judgement.

Moreover, in addition to contesting the decision of Judge Sabassy Faye, the state prosecutor revealed that Mayor Ousmane Sonko had exceeded the legal deadlines. He explained that the notification of his withdrawal from the electoral register dates from September 19, but Sonko only filed his appeal on October 4 of the current month. According to the law, the mayor of Ziguinchor had only nine days to file his appeal. In these conditions, Me Kane considers that it is up to the Supreme Court to decide this question. 

On Thursday evening a judge in the southern town of Ziguinchor 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 resulted in several deaths. Some reporting from Africa News