The lawyers of two key Senegalese opposition figures sentenced for corruption have accused the government of misusing the courts to stop them from contesting next year’s presidential election.

Former minister Karim Wade, the high-profile businessman, son of former Senegalese president Abdoulaye Wade, and Khalifa Sall, the popular mayor of the capital Dakar, were charged with misuse of funds in 2015 and 2018 respectively.

The mayor was back in court on Monday as he appealed his sentence.

“Khalifa Sall’s prison sentence is a purely political one. He’s effectively being prevented from running in the 2019 presidential election,” Ousseynou Fall, one of his lawyers, said.

Sall was sentenced to five years in prison in March for embezzling public funds.

Until his sentence is upheld in the appeal, he will be able to run in February against incumbent Macky Sall, according to legal experts.

Wade, who served as a minister in his father’s government, was handed a six-year prison sentence in 2015 for “criminal enrichment” before he was pardoned by the president in 2016.

He was found guilty of illicitly amassing a fortune worth at least $198m. Wade has since lived in exile.

On July 2, the ministry of interior said Wade could not contest as electoral laws prevent any person sentenced to over five years in prison from running.

His lawyers said on Tuesday his removal from the electoral roll was “obviously arbitrary, illegal and in conflict with electoral laws.”

Since Macky Sall became president in 2012, the state has “methodically violated” the rights of the former minister “only to stop him from running in the election,” they added in a statement.

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