Graft-accused son of Senegal ex-leader 'to run for president'

Dakar (AFP) - Karim Wade, the son of a former Senegalese president and currently on trial for corruption, was chosen Saturday to be the former ruling party's candidate in the next presidential election.

"Karim Wade was chosen by 257 of the 268 delegates" to be the Democratic Party of Senegal's presidential candidate, leading party member Tafsir Thioye told AFP.

No date has yet been set for the upcoming election.

The announcement comes as Senegal's anti-corruption court is expected to deliver its verdict in the case against Wade -- son of the country's longtime leader Abdoulaye Wade -- on Monday.

He is accused of corruption and illegally amassing a multi-million dollar fortune while a minister.

Saturday's decision was made at a party congress that was attended by 88-year-old Abdoulaye Wade, who is the secretary general of the opposition Democratic Party of Senegal (PDS).

He later praised the transparency of the vote saying it had been "conducted publicly in front of party activists and even the press".

The younger Wade, who has been in custody since April 2013 and on trial since July last year, beat at least seven other candidates to become the PDS's presidential hopeful.

He is alleged to have illegally acquired companies and real estate worth almost $240 million (221 million euros) during his time as a minister and an adviser to his father, who was president of Senegal from 2000 to 2012.

Prosecutors have called for a seven-year prison sentence. Wade himself denies the charges and his supporters claim the case against him is politically motivated.

Wade junior was an extremely divisive figure in Senegalese politics in the run-up to the last presidential election in 2012, with many believing his father was trying to line him up as his successor.

He was often criticised for alleged mismanagement of public finances and was nicknamed "super minister", and "the minister of the Earth and the sky", after his father placed him in charge of the international cooperation, air transport, infrastructure and energy portfolios.

The 2012 polls were won by Macky Sall, who is expected to seek re-election.

- Tension as verdict looms -

Sall on Saturday insisted he had nothing to fear from a potential face-off against another member of the Wade family.

"If a candidate stronger than myself is appointed by the Senegalese, we will take note," he told reporters.

Tension has been mounting ahead of Monday's trial verdict, with local media reporting a heightened security presence in the capital Dakar.

The country's main opposition coalition, which includes the PDS, on Friday urged sympathisers to rally at the court on Monday in a show of support for Karim Wade.

The PDS has said that Abdoulaye Wade is expected to make a statement after the ruling is handed down.

The former leader said last month that he was prepared to "give his life" to prevent his son being convicted.

Adding fuel to the fire, opposition lawmaker Mamadou Diop Decroix on Saturday told reporters that "if the country swings towards violence, it won't be the fault of the opposition but of those who put people in prison."

Justice Minister Sidiki Kaba sought to calm tempers, saying the state would maintain public order.

"Freedom of expression will be respected but within the context of the law. The decision that will be handed down by the court will be an independent one," he told the pro-government daily Le Soleil.