By Diadie Ba

DAKAR (Reuters) – Senegal’s Supreme Court on Friday ruled against opposition politician Ousmane Sonko in his appeal against a libel conviction, dealing a further blow to his hopes of competing in next month’s presidential election, lawyers said.

Sonko, 49, has been battling various court cases since 2021. These have hampered his plans to vie for the presidency in the Feb. 25 vote and fuelled unrest that has damaged Senegal’s reputation as one of West Africa’s most stable democracies.

After deliberations that extended from Thursday into the early hours of Friday, the court rejected Sonko’s appeal against a May conviction that led to him receiving a six-month suspended sentence for libel, lawyers involved in the case said.

According to Senegalese law, Sonko cannot compete in the presidential race while such a conviction is upheld.

“We have just recorded a great victory. The … sentence is upheld, so Ousmane Sonko will not be able to participate in the election,” said state lawyer El Hadji Diouf on the radio.

Sonko’s legal team said the setback was not final. “The fight will continue,” his lawyer Cire Cledor Ly told reporters outside the court building in the capital Dakar.

(Additional reporting by Portia Crowe; Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Stephen Coates)

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