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Senegal: Activist Sentenced to Two Years in Jail

(Oct. 26, 2011) On October 20, 2011, a court in Senegal sentenced Malick Noel Seck to two years of imprisonment following his conviction for issuing a death threat and for contempt of court. The charges stemmed from an open letter that Seck, an opposition activist, had written to senior judges. He was accused of threatening and insulting the Constitutional Council in the October 10 letter, in which he also denounced the judges for their silence over the controversial decision of President Abdoulaye Wade to run for a third term next year. (Senegal Court Jails Opposition Activist for “Death Threat,” AFP (Oct. 20, 2011), World News Connection online subscription database, Doc. No. 201110201477.1_35a0005713e4419a.)

The decision was announced by Judge Pape Moussa Toure; although the courtroom was full, Seck was not present. An appeal is planned. (Senegal Court Jails Opposition Activist, NEWS24 (Oct. 20, 2011).)

Seck, who is Secretary General of the Socialist Convergence, a movement related to the Socialist Party in Senegal, stated in his letter:

We come to remind you today of the tacit oath you made to the Senegalese people … it appears to us today that you have failed to honour your commitments and your word. … Wade must fall, Senegal's honour demands it! We have come to you to show our resentment and hold you responsible for our daily suffering … tomorrow, when the word hits the street, even more of us will come to hold you accountable. (AFP, supra.)

Wade has already had two terms in office, but a change in the law during his administration may be considered grounds for allowing him to run again. The constitutionality of his bid for an additional term is being considered by the Constitutional Council, which will announce its decision before the February 26, 2012, election date. (Id.)

Seck's attorney, Moussa Bocar Thiam, expressed surprise at the court's decision, which he described as bearing “no relation to the charges against him.” Thiam went on to question, “[m]ust the Senegalese trust a justice system like this one?” (NEWS 24, supra.) Abdoulaye Wilane of the Socialist Convergence called the sentence “heavy handed” and then stated that the “government is desperate and Malick Noel Seck is a political prisoner, a hostage, a prisoner of conscience.” (Id.)