French lawyer for Senegal opposition leader Sonko released on bail

DAKAR (Reuters) – Juan Branco, a French lawyer for Senegalese opposition politician Ousmane Sonko, has been released on bail by a judge, Senegal’s justice minister said on Monday.

Branco faces terrorism, conspiracy and public order charges, similar to charges against his client Sonko, who is in custody accused of plotting an insurrection – part of a long-running standoff with the authorities that he says is politically motivated.

“The judge charged him (Branco) and granted him bail,” Minister Ismaila Madior Fall told reporters, adding that he had been placed under judicial supervision.

Branco’s lawyer Robin Binsard has dismissed the charges as an effort to silence him professionally.

Senegalese authorities issued an arrest warrant for Branco last month after he made a surprise appearance at a news conference by Sonko’s legal team in Dakar in late July, according to French newspaper Le Monde.

He then went to Mauritania where he was arrested and extradited to Senegal.

Fall described Branco as “a French lawyer who has made attacks on the Senegalese state”. He entered the country illegally and wanted to leave it illegally as well, Fall said.

The minister said he would be able to serve any sentence in France thanks to Senegal’s ties with France.

(Reporting by Ngouda Dione; Writing by Anait Miridzhanian; editing by Grant McCool)