Senegal court sentences Dakar mayor to 5 years in prison

DAKAR, Senegal - A court in Senegal on Friday sentenced the capital's mayor, a popular opposition figure, to five years in prison for forgery, criminal conspiracy, embezzlement and fraud.

More than 100 activists who had gathered to support Khalifa Sall shouted with indignation after the court read out his sentence.

"It is unfair. This verdict aims to bar the mayor of Dakar from the road to the 2019 presidential election," said one supporter, Amadou Fall. "President Macky Sall wants to eliminate his opponents."

Another young activist, Aminata Kane, broke down in tears. "This verdict is a breach of democracy," Kane said.

Sall was arrested in March 2017 on suspicion of embezzling 1.8 billion CFA francs ($3.4 million). His lawyers have said the missing public funds went to people in need. The mayor has been in detention since his arrest.

Sall, who took office in 2009, denies the allegations, saying the charges and trial are politically motivated.

Senegal is seen as an example of a stable democracy in West Africa, but the mayor's supporters accuse the president, who is not related, of aiming to remove any major opponents ahead of the 2019 elections.

Sall's lawyer, Cledor Cire Ly, said they will appeal the sentence.

The court also sentenced Yaya Bodian and Mbaye Toure, the mayor's accountant and director of administration and finance respectively, to five years in prison. An assistant was sentenced to two years.

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