Senegal ex-Leader Calls Rally after Son’s Graft Conviction

Senegal’s former president Abdoulaye Wade called for a mass rally on Friday over the sentencing of his son for graft as his lawyers said they had filed an appeal.

Karim Wade, who was being groomed to succeed his father in the top job, got a six-year jail term on Monday after judges ruled he was guilty of “illegal enrichment” and fined him the equivalent of more than 210 million euros ($230 million).

He was however cleared of the main corruption charge — initially said to involve one billion euros but later whittled down to 105 million euros — by a special anti-corruption court in Dakar.

“We launched an appeal in the Supreme Court yesterday,” Karim Wade’s lawyer Mohamed Seydou Diagne told Agence France-Presse.

The senior Wade, who showed up for the verdict on Monday, has called supporters of his Democratic Party of Senegal (PDS) to gather on Friday in Obelisque, a working-class district in the capital Dakar, where he said he would react to the verdict, a party official said.

Monday’s ruling came after the PDS over the weekend chose the 46-year-old Karim as its candidate for the west African country’s next presidential election, a date for which has yet to be set.

The case has caused deep divisions in the country. Wade’s supporters say Karim is the target of a witchhunt and the government sought to defuse mounting tensions by declaring that the conviction would not affect Wade’s civic rights, allowing him to pursue his presidential bid.

Karim Wade went on trial in July 2014 charged with illegally acquiring companies and real estate while serving in various government posts during his father’s 12-year presidency which ended in 2012 when Abdoulaye Wade lost a bitterly fought election.

He has been in custody since April 2013, with prosecutors demanding a seven-year prison term.

After a successful career in finance in London, Karim Wade returned to Senegal two years after his father’s 2000 presidential victory and was soon handed charge of key ministries, earning him the sobriquet of “Minister of heaven and Earth.”

But the younger Wade, whose mother Viviane is French, also inspired mistrust and derision among voters over his long stays in Europe and his lack of mastery of the country’s main language Wolof.

Voters made their disdain clear in 2009, when Wade campaigned to become the mayor of Dakar — a bid interpreted as setting the stage for higher national political ambitions, but which resulted in an electoral drubbing.