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Former Senegalese Prime Minister to be Tried in Special Court

The Senegalese parliament has voted to try former Prime Minister Idrissa Seck in a special court on charges of embezzlement and endangering state security.

A parliamentary vote was needed in order to try former Prime Minister Idrissa Seck because he held office at the time of the alleged offences.

Prosecutors say Mr. Seck overspent millions of dollars on projects as mayor of his hometown, Thies. They say they have also uncovered evidence that he endangered national security.

Mr. Seck has denied any wrongdoing.

According to Senegalese journalist Alassane Samba Diop, opposition politicians say the parliamentary resolution, approved by a 62 to 35 vote, didn't get sufficient majority.

Mr. Diop says that opposition leaders believe the required majority to pass the resolution to try Mr. Seck is 72. He says that 16 members of the National Assembly did not vote because they are part of the High Court, and 62 votes to pass the resolution was 'an interpretation' of the National Assembly.

The High Court of Justice, where Mr. Seck will be tried, sits only when members of the government are charged with serious crimes. The court had sat only once before, in 1962, when an official was convicted of plotting a coup against former President Leopold Senghor.

Mr. Diop says the decision to prosecute Mr. Seck sparked protests in Senegal's capital Dakar, particularly around the university campus.

But he says the most violent protests were in the town of Theis, where people believe Mr. Seck is a victim of arbitrary justice. He says opinion is divided in the country. Some people believe that President Abdoulaye Wade has personal reasons for putting Mr. Seck on trial.

The government has not said how Mr. Seck posed a threat to national security. He was originally accused of spending more than $80 million on a road construction program in Theis, about twice the amount budgeted by the government.

Mr. Seck was appointed prime minister after helping President Wade to power in Senegal's 2000 elections. But the president dismissed Mr. Seck four years later, accusing him of undermining presidential powers. He was taken into police custody last month after announcing he will run in the next presidential elections.