Senegal restricts internet after protest calls

Sonko announced Sunday that he was going on hunger strike and asked his supporters to 'stand up' and 'resist… oppression'.

Senegal on Monday announced that mobile data was being restricted due to “hateful and subversive” messages on social media, following calls for protests over the arrest Friday of opposition politician Ousmane Sonko.

The public prosecutor on Saturday announced seven new charges, including calling for insurrection, against Sonko, a presidential candidate and fierce critic of President Macky Sall.

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“Due to the dissemination of hateful and subversive messages on social networks… mobile data internet is being temporarily suspended during certain hours from Monday July 31”, the minister of Telecommunications and the Digital Economy said in a statement.

Strong police presence

Sonko was scheduled to be interrogated by a judge on Monday. The judge will then decide whether or not to lay charges.

There was a strong police presence, including anti-riot vehicles and barriers, around the courthouse in the capital Dakar on Monday morning, an AFP journalist reported.

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A heavy security presence could also be seen throughout the city.

Cire Cledor Ly, one of Sonko’s lawyers, said it was impossible for the defence team to speak to or prepare the politician for the hearing.

“It is a scandal”, he told reporters outside the court.

In a separate affair, Sonko was on June 1 sentenced in absentia to two years in prison for morally corrupting a young woman, which makes him ineligible to stand in next year’s election.

His sentencing in that case sparked clashes that left 16 dead according to the government, 24 according to Amnesty International, and 30 according to Sonko’s PASTEF party.

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On Saturday, the prosecutor said his arrest a day earlier had “nothing to do” with the moral corruption proceedings.

Sonko hunger strike

Sonko announced Sunday that he was going on hunger strike and asked his supporters to “stand up” and “resist… oppression”.

He has faced a string of legal woes he claims are aimed at keeping him out of politics.

On Monday, the opposition coalition Yewwi Askan Wi called on citizens to go en masse to the courthouse.

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In the early hours of Monday morning, the company operating a toll highway in the suburbs of Dakar said on social media that protesters had blocked the road.

It later said traffic had returned to normal.

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