Senegal’s President Macky Sall has pardoned former Dakar mayor and political rival Khalifa Sall, who had been sentenced to prison for fraudulent use of public funds, the presidency announced Sunday.
Khalifa Sall, no relation of the president, has been in jail since March 2017 and was sentenced to five years in prison in August 2018.
He was therefore barred from taking part in the presidential election in February.
Khalifa Sall emerged from prison a few hours after the pardon was announced to be greeted by a crowd of supporters.
Police fired tear gas to disperse the crowd, witnesses and local media said.
The president has “totally annulled his sentences,” said a presidential decree made public on Sunday. Two of his co-accused were also pardoned.
Khalifa Sall, 63, served as Dakar mayor from 2009 till 2018 when the president removed him from office.
“I thank the head of state (Macky Sall) who had promised me this release,” said Sowam Wardini, who took over as Dakar mayor from Khalifa Sall.
“Khalifa Sall is returning to his family today,” he added.
Khalifa Sall was elected to parliament in 2017 but never got the chance to take his seat.
A popular politician, he has always believed that the case brought against him was a political move to prevent him from standing in this year’s presidential election against Macky Sall, who has been in power since 2012. That claim is denied by officials.
Several religious leaders have recently called for more discussion and less conflict in the country’s political life.
Former minister Karim Wade, son of Macky Sall’s predecessor as president Abdoulaye Wade (2000-12), is another one who was prevented for standing for the presidency because of a fraud case.
He was jailed for six years in 2015 after having been detained for two years, and handed a fine.
After a three year stint in prison he was handed a presidential pardon in June 2016.
However the constitutional court rejected his presidential election candidacy due to that conviction.
Serigne Mountakha Mbacke, head of the Sufi Mouride Brotherhood, one of the most influential Muslim orders in Senegal, was the instigator of a reconciliatory meeting on Friday between President Sall and Abdoulaye Wade.
Religious leaders have a lot of influence in a country where over 90 percent of people are Muslims.