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Senegal former Prime Minister in police custody after questioning president

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Senegal’s former prime minister, Cheikh Hadjibou Soumare

Senegal’s former prime minister Cheikh Hadjibou Soumare was taken into police custody on Thursday after asking President Macky Sall if he had financed a French political figure, a defence lawyer said.

Soumare, who was budget minister and then prime minister from 2007 to 2009 under former president Abdoulaye Wade, was summoned by police on Thursday, a police official told AFP.

In an open letter to President Sall last weekend, Soumare asked the president whether he had donated 12 million euros ($12.7 million) to a “French political figure” whose party is distinguished “by hatred and rejection of others”.

The Senegalese government, in a statement on Tuesday, denied making any financial donation to the leader of France’s National Rally, Marine Le Pen, who visited Sall in the capital Dakar on January 18.

In a statement, it said it “rejects and strongly condemns such insinuations” which it described as “cowardly and unfounded”. 

“We have just been notified that (Soumare) has been placed in custody” after his interrogation by the police “at the request of the public prosecutor”, Mame Adama Gueye, a defence lawyer, told reporters on Thursday.

Rights defenders and Sall’s opponents say civil liberties in Senegal are coming under pressure in the run-up to the February 2024 election.

The government refutes that there has been any regression and says the law is applied fairly in Senegal.

Sall, who was elected in 2012 and again in 2019, has not confirmed or denied whether he intends to override the constitution and run for a third presidential term in 2024. 

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© Agence France-Presse

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