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84 on trial in Senegal over banned protest

Eighty-four people, including two opposition MPs, went on trial in Senegal on Monday for allegedly defying a protest ban in the tense runup to legislative elections. Supporters, including main opposition leader Ousmane Sonko, cheered the defendants as they arrived in court in the capital Dakar. "We are in Senegal -- the right to demonstrate is…

Senegalese anti riot policemen are seen at the entrance of the street leading to the house of the opponent Ousmane Sonko, on June 17, 2022, in Dakar. – Police deployed Friday in Dakar near the home of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko, who called for defying an official ban on protests the same day, amid growing tension, his party said. (Photo by SEYLLOU / AFP)

Eighty-four people, including two opposition MPs, went on trial in Senegal on Monday for allegedly defying a protest ban in the tense runup to legislative elections.

Supporters, including main opposition leader Ousmane Sonko, cheered the defendants as they arrived in court in the capital Dakar.

“We are in Senegal — the right to demonstrate is enshrined in the Constitution,” said MP Dethie Fall, one of the accused. 

Authorities, citing the risk of unrest, banned a June 17 rally called by the opposition after its list of candidates for legislative elections was disqualified on technical grounds.

Clashes broke out in Dakar and the southern region of Casamance after youths defied the ban.

Three people died and some 200 were arrested, according to the opposition. 

The two MPs accused law enforcement of “kidnapping” them.

Legislator Mame Diarra Fame said she was arrested after she and her two children went to see opposition figures and Dakar mayor Barthelemy Dias.

“Tell me if in Senegal the laws prohibit going to see friends, relatives or acquaintances,” she said.

Tensions have been rising since the Senegal’s highest court on June 3 upheld the ban on the candidates’ list.

The bar blocked Sonko, a presidential hopeful, from contesting the July 31 election.

The opposition, which has called for fresh demonstrations on Wednesday, has threatened to prevent the vote from taking place if the list is not reinstated.

Civil society groups have called for dialogue and restraint.

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