Senegal’s prominent opposition leader Ousmane Sonko has been arrested, his lawyer said on Wednesday after supporters scuffled with security forces ahead of his scheduled court appearance to face a rape charge.
Sonko, 46, was heading to court to face the charge, which he denies and says is politically motivated.
Hundreds of his supporters followed his motorcade, sounding car horns and chanting.
Some of them then hurled stones at the officers, who fired back with tear gas.
“He has been notified of his arrest on charges of disturbing public order and participating in an unauthorised demonstration,” one of Sonko’s lawyers, Cheikh Khouraissy Ba, told AFP.
Controversy has dogged Sonko since last month when Senegalese media reported that an employee at a beauty salon where he went to get massages filed rape charges against him.
On Friday, Senegal’s parliament voted to strip Sonko of his immunity so the rape prosecution could proceed.
Sonko has accused the president of conspiring to remove him ahead of the 2024 elections.
The leader of the opposition Pastef party challenged President Macky Sall in the 2019 vote, eventually finishing third in a race that delivered the incumbent a second term.
He was due to appear before a judge in Dakar on Wednesday morning to answer the rape charge.
However, he was arrested before he reached the courthouse, according to his lawyer.