Mauritania
21.06.19
Urgent Interventions

Joint Letter calling President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz to release blogger Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mkhaitir

UPDATE - On July 29, 2019, blogger Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mohamed Mkhaitir was released from prison.

President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz

Islamic Republic of Mauritania

Ministère du Secrétariat Général à laPrésidence

Nouakchott, Mauritania

Your Excellency,

We, theundersigned nongovernmental organizations, urge you to ensure the immediaterelease of Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mkhaitir, who is still in detention more thanone and-a-half years since an appeals court ordered his release. His family andlawyers say his health has suffered gravely during his incarceration and continuesto deteriorate.

In January 2014,authorities arrested Mkhaitir days after he published an article onlinedenouncing what he considered the misuse of religion to justify discriminationamong castes in Mauritania.

In December2014, after a year of pretrial detention, a first instance court in Nouadhibousentenced him to death for apostasy and insulting the Prophet Muhammad. However,in 2016, the Court of Appeal in Nouadhibou requalified his offense as“non-belief.” In November 2017, while Mkhaitir remained in detention, the courtreduced his sentence to a fine and two years’ imprisonment, which he had bythen served.

Instead of releasinghim, authorities transferred Mkhaitir to solitary confinement in an undisclosedlocation. His lawyers have been denied permission to visit him. According tohis family, he suffers from physical pain, psychological trauma, and glaucomathat could leave him blind if authorities continue to prevent his access toappropriate medical care.

Mkhaitir hasbeen able to receive very occasional visits. According to the latestinformation at our disposal, he has no interaction with other people except hisguards and occasional visitors.

This month,Mauritanians will elect a new president. The prosecution of Mkhaitir forexercising his freedom of speech and his continued illegal detention weighs onyour legacy. For now, it remains within your power to secure Mkhaitir’srelease, thereby sending a message of support for human rights and the rule oflaw.

We respectfullycall on you to take immediate steps to ensure that Mkhaitir is set free and toensure his safety and well-being upon release.

We wouldwelcome your comments on this letter and on any other matter pertaining tohuman rights and rule of law issues in Mauritania.

Sincerely,

Action des Chrétiens pour l’Abolition de laTorture (ACAT) - France

Amnesty International

Anti-Slavery International

Committee to Protect Journalists

Ensemble Contre la Peine de Mort

FIDH within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection ofHuman Rights Defenders

Freedom Now

Human Rights Watch

Minority Rights Group

World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) within the framework ofthe Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

PEN America

Reporters Sans Frontières

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