Senegalese opposition leader Ousmane Sonko will face trial on charges of rape and making death threats to a beauty salon employee in 2021.

An investigating judge has referred the matter to Senegal’s criminal chamber, reports Reuters news agency. 

Sonko’s lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but the 48-year-old politician has previously denied all the charges.

A trial could jeopardise his intention to compete in the 2024 presidential election. Sonko, who came third in the 2019 election, has announced he will run.

It could also stoke political tensions in Senegal. Clashes broke out in the country in March 2021 when Sonko was initially summoned by the investigating judge and arrested.

Sonko is accused of sexually assaulting a woman who worked in a massage parlour and later threatening her. 

He and his backers say the trial is politically motivated to eliminate him from the presidential race.

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