Senegal opposition mayor arrested

2011-12-29 11:11

Dakar - A high-profile opponent of Senegal's president and ruling party, who is also a mayor of a suburb in the capital Dakar, was detained on Wednesday on suspicion of involvement in a fatal town hall shooting, his lawyer said.

The arrest of Barthelemy Dias may stoke political tensions in the West African nation two months ahead of a presidential election in which incumbent President Abdoulaye Wade plans to seek re-election despite an outcry from the opposition.

"Barthelemy Dias has been remanded in custody on three charges: murder; assault and battery, and illegal possession of firearms," his lawyer El Hadj Diouf said.

His bodyguard was also detained.

The shooting occurred on December 22 after about a dozen men in four-wheel drive vehicles gathered near the Sacre-Coeur-Mermoz town hall headed by Dias. A fight, in which shots were fired, broke out, because, according to local media, there were fears the men were trying to stop an opposition march against Wade.

One of the men in a 4x4 was shot dead.

Wade was chosen on the same day of the shooting by the ruling PDS party as their candidate for the February 26 election.

Senegal's opposition parties are opposed to the octogenarian's bid to seek a third term and have accused him of trying to hand over power to his son Karim, who is a super minister in his government.

Both Wade and his son have denied the charge and the country's highest court will decide in January whether Wade is eligible to seek another mandate.

The opposition and a large part of the country's civil society are contesting Wade's candidature saying the president has exhausted his two terms allowed by the revised constitution adopted in a 2001 referendum.

Senegalese opposition parties have however failed after several attempts to present a single candidate against Wade in the election.