DAKAR, Senegal (AP) β€” Clashes between police and supporters of the opposition leader in Senegal left one dead and several injured, friends of the victim told The Associated Press on Saturday.

Aliou Bodian was killed on Friday in the southern city of Kolda, his friend Boubacar Balde said. β€œIt’s a sad atmosphere that has taken over the family,” he said.

Opposition leader Ousmane Sonko had asked his supporters to follow him in a “freedom caravan” from his southern hometown of Ziguinchor, where he is mayor, to the capital Dakar, some 750 kilometers (465 miles) away, where a verdict is expected next week on the charges he faces.

Sonko is on trial for rape and death threats against a woman who worked at a massage parlor and could face up to 10 years in prison. If convicted, he would be barred from running in next year’s presidential election.

Sonko did not attend the trial last week and was tried in absentia. He said that he is protesting injustice and that he will no longer respond to court summons. He and his supporters say his legal troubles are part of an effort by the government of President Macky Sall to derail his candidacy in the 2024 election.

The opposition leader recently received a suspended six-month prison sentence in a defamation case against Tourism Minister Mame Mbaye Niang, to whom he now owes some $330,000 in compensation.

It is not clear how the clashes on Friday started, but tear gas smoke could be seen on Sonko’s Facebook page, as well as a truck blocking the street where the caravan and hundreds of supporters were walking.

Local media reported that several trucks of the police and security forces were deployed in the area.

Demonstrations have already turned violent in the run-up to the trial. The Senegalese government says it will stand firm against any attempt to disturb public order.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *