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Senegal parliament lifts immunity for opposition MP accused of rape

Sonko finished third in 2019 elections that saw President Macky Sall win a second term in office, and is considered a future presidential contender in the West African state.

FILE: Senegal's 165-seat parliament voted on Friday to lift his legal immunity, with 98 MPs voting in favour of the motion, one voting against and two abstaining, local radio reported. Picture: pixabay.com

DAKAR, Senegal - Senegal's parliament on Friday voted to lift the immunity of leading opposition MP Ousmane Sonko, who has been accused of rape, local media reported.

Sonko finished third in 2019 elections that saw President Macky Sall win a second term in office, and is considered a future presidential contender in the West African state.

But controversy has dogged the 46-year-old since early this month, when Senegalese media reported that a beauty-salon employee had filed rape charges against him.

Sonko, head of the opposition Pastef party, has denied the charges and accused the president of conspiring against him.

Senegal's 165-seat parliament voted on Friday to lift his legal immunity, with 98 MPs voting in favour of the motion, one voting against and two abstaining, local radio reported.

Die Mandiaye Ba, the head of the parliamentary committee responsible for the motion, told AFP that opposition MPs left the chamber before the vote.

Earlier on Friday, Sonko supporters gathered in several suburbs of the capital Dakar and burned tyres in protest.

The opposition leader said during a press conference on Thursday that he would not speak to police investigators, citing procedural irregularities in the lifting of his immunity.

"If Macky Sall wants to get rid of me, he must, for once, agree to get his hands dirty," Sonko said.

He had previously pledged to cooperate with the police, however.

The rape allegation against Sonko comes amid uncertainty over whether Sall, 59, will seek a third term.

Presidents in the former French colony of about 16 million people are limited to two consecutive terms, but Sall launched a constitutional review in 2016, raising suspicions he intends to run again.

Other presidents in West Africa -- such as Guinea's Alpha Conde or Ivory Coast's Alassane Ouattara -- have used constitutional changes to win third terms.

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