Juan Branco, the lawyer to the leading Senegalese opposition politician Ousmane Sonko was arrested last weekend after several days of cat-and-mouse games with the authorities.
This was confirmed by the Senegalese Interior minister who said that the Franco- Spanish lawyer was in the hands of an elite police unit.
Several local reports say Branco was arrested as he was sneaking out of Senegal towards Mauritania.
A source close to the case also reported his arrest on the Mauritanian side, but the lawyer’s situation remained unclear by mid-afternoon Saturday.
Branco has made a name for himself in Senegal by taking part in the defense of Ousmane Sonko, an opponent engaged since 2021 in a tug-of-war with the authorities and the judiciary. For over two years, the confrontation has given rise to several episodes of deadly violence.
The Senegalese prosecutor’s office announced on July 14 that it had opened a judicial investigation and requested an arrest warrant against him, based on his writings and statements.
However, Branco caused a surprise on Sunday when he unexpectedly burst into a press conference held by Ousmane Sonko’s Senegalese lawyers in Dakar, two days after Sonko’s arrest. Sonko has since been jailed on various charges, including calling for insurrection.
A few months earlier, Branco had been refused entry to Senegal at the airport.
Senegalese Foreign Minister Aïssata Tall Sall did not deny reports to the press on Thursday that Branco had this time entered via the land border with Gambia. She said the Senegalese authorities had discussed the matter with their Gambian counterparts.