Rare terrorism trial postponed in Senegal
The trial of 31 people accused of terrorism offences in Senegal was postponed Wednesday, setting back a case that has forced the country to confront a security problem plaguing its neighbours.
The suspects, among them an imam and three women, are accused of criminal conspiracy related to financing a terror group, money laundering, acts of terrorism and funding terrorism.
On the first day of proceedings Malick Lamotte, the presiding judge, delayed the next hearing to February 14 to allow the defence more time to prepare its case.
The heavily-guarded Dakar court trial is believed to be the first collective prosecution of suspects accused of terror-related activities in the majority-Muslim country, which is seen as a pillar of democracy and stability in the region.
Senegal has so far escaped the Al-Qaeda-linked jihadist insurgency that has destabilised neighbouring Mali, and seen attacks on other west African nations including Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast.
Families and supporters of the accused packed the courtroom, while the imam among them shouted "Allahu Akbar" (Arabic for God is Great) when the delay was announced.
"Around 50 suspected jihadists have been arrested in Senegal over the last two years," Oumar Mal, the director-general of Senegal's police, told AFP prior to the trial. "There are Senegalese citizens and (other) Africans," he added.
Senegalese imam Ibrahima Seye was sentenced on appeal to two years in prison in October 2016 for glorifying terrorism, one of several people accused by the state of links to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and the Islamic State group.
Senegalese Muslims primarily follow Sufi strands of Islam mixed with local beliefs -- considered heretic by hardline Salafists -- while moderate Islamic brotherhoods hold huge power in society.