DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Senegal’s main opposition leader on Monday was given a six-month suspended prison sentence by an appeals court in the West African nation over a defamation case brought against him by a government minister.
The court ruling against Ousmane Sonko prevents President Macky Sall’s most prominent political rival from running in next year’s presidential election, but can be appealed again.
Sonko was ordered to pay 200 million West African francs ($336,000) in damages and interest by Judge Mamadou Cissé.
If Sonko doesn’t pay the fine, the judge can order his imprisonment.
Senegal’s public prosecutor had requested a two-year sentence for “forgery, use of forgery, defamation and insults” in the trial brought by the Tourism Minister Mame Mbaye Niang.
Sonko didn’t appear in court on Monday. In a statement made on Sunday, he announced that he would no longer respond to court summonses.
The popular opposition figure was sentenced in March by a lower court to a two-month suspended prison sentence and ordered to pay damages.
There was a heavy presence of security forces around Dakar Monday. Sonko’s supporters have taken to the streets in angry protests in the past after previous stages in the court process.