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Senegal opposition leader in ICU nearly three weeks into hunger strike

Jailed opposition leader Ousmane Sonko was put in intensive care, nearly three weeks into a hunger strike to protest criminal charges brought against him by Senegal’s government, his party said.

Sonko was put in detention on July 31 in advance of a trial in which he faces charges of calling for insurrection, conspiracy against the state and other alleged crimes.

Since August 6, he has been at the Main Hospital in downtown Dakar, the capital, because of ill effects from his hunger strike.

After fainting during the night, Sonko was rushed into an intensive care unit in the same hospital, where he eventually regained consciousness on Thursday, said El Malick Ndiaye, a spokesperson for the now-dissolved Patriots of Senegal party led by Sonko.

Sonko had refused medical care the previous five days, and allies are trying to persuade him to change his mind about the hunger strike, Ndiaye said.

“We’re doing everything to get him to stop, because it’s a question of life or death,” Ndiaye said.

Three other detainees who joined Sonko in the hunger strike are also in intensive care.

Sonko placed third in Senegal’s 2019 presidential election and is popular with the country’s young people.

His supporters maintain the charges against him, which have ranged from rape and death threats to defamation and conspiracy against the state, are part of a government effort to derail his candidacy in the 2024 presidential election.

Human Rights Watch has called for the reinstatement of Sonko’s party. Senegal ’s government says the party was dissolved July 31, the day Sonko was put in detention.

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