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Senegal: start of the trial of the demonstrations of June 17

Senegal

In Senegal, the trial of the 84 people arrested during the demonstrations of June 17 began on Monday. At the helm, the two deputies of the opposition coalition Yewwi Askan Wi, among others.

In Senegal, 84 defendants are facing justice after demonstrating despite the prefecture's ban on June 17. They appear before a special court, on the occasion of a public trial. The first hearings concerned the alleged instigators of the June 17 demonstrations in Dakar and Casamance: the journalist and mayor of Guédiawaye Ahmed Aïdara, the representative of Yewwi Askan Wi Dethie Fall, and the deputy Mame Diarra Fam. Disturbance of public order, participation in an unarmed gathering and participation in an insurrectionary movement… The charges vary according to the defendants.

At the end of the day, the prosecution requested 6 months in prison against the mayor and one year for the two deputies. Ahmed Aïdara was finally sentenced to a month's suspended prison sentence, and therefore went free. The two deputies of the Yewwi Askan Wi movement will wait for the rest of the trial, according to the Senegalese media.

A trial that caused a lot of noise. Opposition leaders, like Ousmane Sonko and Khalifa Sall, were present at the hearing. Among the 84 defendants were six security agents working for Sonko, precisely. The day after the demonstrations, the police blocked the passage to the homes of Sonko, Barthélémy Dias, one of his most fervent supporters, and the mayor of Dakar, anticipating new exits.

Political trial or politicized trial?

The hearing, which was held before the Pikine court, was therefore long and chaotic. Tens of thousands of Senegalese followed this first judicial round of Yewwi Askan Wi on social networks or on television.

The judge in charge of the case immediately called for calm, saying that “only the law” will be applied “whatever the circumstances”. If the release of the mayor of Guédiawaye should appease the next hearings a little, the supporters of the Senegalese opponents have invested social media, where the publications number in the tens of thousands.

The two deputies from Yewwi Askan Wi pleaded their case in court. Dethie Fall, for her part, declared: “I cannot be blamed for a demonstration that did not exist. We are in Senegal, the right to demonstrate is enshrined in the Constitution”.

As for the representative of the diaspora, Mame Diarra Fam, she claims to have been “abducted” as she was heading towards the residence of Barthélémy Dias. Fam also claims not to have participated in the demonstrations, just like Dethie Fall who says that he was "kidnapped in front of his party's headquarters".

Be that as it may, as the legislative elections of July 31 in Senegal approach, Yewwi Askan Wi occupies, in particular with this trial, the media space. According to Africa Intelligence, several relatives of Ousmane Sonko made a European tour last month “to raise funds from the diaspora”.

The opposition coalition announced a march on Thursday June 30, in particular to demand the release of the defendants.

Legislative in Senegal: Yewwi Askan Wi speculates on his trial, BBY beats campaign

As a reminder, the demonstrations of June 17 in Senegal had as their starting point the invalidation of the electoral lists of Yewwi Askan Wi. However, after the clashes between the demonstrators and the police, three people died.

While the Senegalese opposition - Ousmane Sonko in the lead - clearly intends to capitalize on the media attention to the demonstrations and the subsequent trial, the ruling coalition Benno Bokk Yakaar (BBY) is campaigning.

This Monday, it was in Kaolack that Macky Sall's foals met for the legislative elections. A safe choice in this city where the head of BBY, former Prime Minister Aminata Touré, is at home, in her political stronghold. Former Prime Minister Souleymane Ndiaye and the lawyer for Sonko's accuser in her rape case - Adji Sarr -, El Hadji Moustapha Diouf, also accompanied Aminata Touré to her meeting in Kaolack.

Last Sunday, a tweet by French MP Olivier Faure, denouncing "the instrumentalization of justice" in Senegal provoked the ire of the BBY. The spokesperson for Macky Sall's coalition and president of the parliamentary majority, Aymerou Gningue, declared: "We thought those times were over, to see French politicians interfering in our internal policies with so much lightness".

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