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Former Senegal Prime Minister Intends to Fight Security Charges

The lawyer for former Senegalese Prime Minister Idrissa Seck says he believes charges of undermining state security against his client are politically motivated. Security forces remain on the streets of Senegal's capital, Dakar, and the town of Theis, after two days of demonstrations in support of Mr. Seck.

The lawyer defending says his client is ready to fight allegations of corruption. Attorney Boukounta Diallo says he does not know why his client has been charged with the more serious allegation of threatening state security.

Mr. Diallo says his client is a political hostage jailed to satisfy the political ambitions of the chief of state, Aboulaye Wade.

A former protégé of Mr. Wade, Mr. Seck was fired from his prime minister job in 2004 over allegations of rivalry with the president. He was taken into police custody 10-days ago, after announcing he wanted to be the candidate for the next presidential elections.

Mr. Seck also made public two recordings, one after his arrest, that he says reveal conversations damaging to the president.

A West Africa analyst from the London-based Global Insight research group, Olly Owen, says that after having charged Mr. Seck, President Wade has no choice but to seek a conviction.

"He basically has to take him all the way to a conviction which will eliminate him from the political game, because the backlash against this if Seck is allowed to compete in the end is probably going to translate into a huge transfer of popularity to the former prime minister," he said.

Mr. Seck's transfer to Dakar central prison after he was charged Saturday sparked clashes between Mr. Seck's supporters and police that ended Monday.

Senegalese journalist Oumar Gaye was recently in Mr. Seck's hometown of Theis and says the protests were violent, almost like a riot. He says the situation in the town remains tense, although protests in the capital, Dakar, have largely died down.

"Dakar is calm. Policemen are out on the streets holding their guns, but in Theis it is still tough. People are demonstrating and they are putting red ribbons on their hands so as to show they are not happy about the arrest of the former prime minister," he said.

The government has accused Mr. Seck of spending more than 80-million dollars on a road-building program in Theis, when only about half the amount was budgeted.