(Bloomberg) -- A Dakar court sentenced Ousmane Sonko, the most prominent challenger to President Macky Sall in next year’s presidential elections, to a two-months suspended prison sentence for defaming a government minister.

Sonko, 48, was also fined 200 million CFA francs ($333,000), Macoudou Ndour, a member of the defense team, said by phone Thursday from the capital, Dakar. The ruling doesn’t disqualify Sonko from running for public office, he said. 

“The ruling is in my client’s favor as he retains his civil and political rights. He can still be a candidate in next year’s elections,” Ndour said.

The verdict comes as Sall, 61, may seek re-election after a constitutional amendment in 2016 that he says allows him to extend his two terms in power. The parties have one month to appeal Thursday’s ruling.

Sonko, the leader of the opposition African Patriots of Senegal for Work, Ethics and Fraternity, or Pastef-Patriotes in French, was sued for defamation over comments made about Senegalese Tourism Minister Mame Mbaye Niang last year. Sonko also faces charges of rape and assault of a beauty-salon employee; he’s denied any wrongdoing and said the charges are politically motivated. 

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Sonko may yet be prevented from running if he’s found guilty of rape. A court date for that case hasn’t been set yet.



(Updates with sentence suspended in first paragraph. An earlier version of this story corrected the currency conversion in the second paragraph.)

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