Senegal ex-leader's son on hunger strike after 'hit' in court

2015-01-16 08:11

Dakar - The son of former Senegalese president Abdoulaye Wade has gone on hunger strike after being "beaten and injured" in court where he is on trial for corruption during his time as a minister, his lawyers and supporters said Thursday.

Karim Wade went on hunger strike on Wednesday and would continue "until his rights are respected and there is a fair trial in which those of the defence will be guaranteed", lawyer Mohamed Seydou Diagne told AFP.

"He was physically assaulted" on Wednesday, said Diagne.

According to his lawyers and supporters, Wade has refused to attend court since Wednesday in the absence of his defence team after one of them was "expelled from the hearing" by court president Henri Gregoire Diop and the lawyer's colleagues mounted a boycott.

Special corruption tribunal

After he refused to appear, Wade was "brought to the hearing by force, handcuffed, severely beaten, dragged along the ground and injured", according to a statement from the Senegalese Democratic Party headed by his father, who was president of Senegal from 2000 to 2012.

Karim Wade, who has been in custody since April 2013, has been on trial since July last year at a special corruption tribunal known as the CREI.

He is alleged to have illegally acquired companies and real estate worth almost $240m during his time as a minister and an adviser to his father.

His lawyers were not present at the hearing Thursday.

Rights of the defence

"We will attend when the rights of the defence are guaranteed. Otherwise we risk endorsing jurisdictions unworthy of a democracy," said Diagne, adding that "the legal profession cannot practise before the CREI".

"Everyone has the right to speak, except the defence" in the trial, Cire Cledor Ly, another of Wade's lawyers, told reporters.

But prosecution lawyer Yerim Thiam said Wade's counsel was expelled on Wednesday because he was "blocking" the work of the court.

The younger Wade was an extremely divisive figure in Senegalese politics in the run-up to the presidential election in March 2012, with many believing his father was trying to line him up as a successor.

He was often criticised for alleged mismanagement of public finances and was nicknamed "super minister", and "the minister of the Earth and the sky", after his father placed him in charge of the international cooperation, air transport, infrastructure and energy portfolios.