Freedom Now calls on Mauritania to release blogger who faces death penalty


November 11, 2016

President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz
Islamic Republic of Mauritania
Ministère du Secrétariat Général à la Présidence
B.P.184 Nouakchott, Mauritanie
Fax: +222 525 85 52

Dear President Abdel Aziz,

The organizations signing below write to express their concern for the life of blogger Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mohamed, also known as Mohamed Ould M’Kaitir. We also ask that your government do everything it can to secure his release.

Mauritania’s Supreme Court is expected to review Mohamed’s case on November 15. The blogger faces the death penalty following his conviction in 2014 on blasphemy charges stemming from an article he published on the news website Aqlame on December 31, 2013, titled, “Religion, religiosity, and craftsmen,” which criticized Mauritania’s caste system.

Mohamed has repeatedly repented. On January 11, 2014, he issued a statement from prison denying that he intended to insult the Prophet Mohamed. In an unsuccessful, April 21, 2016, appeal, he said that he had made a mistake, and asked for forgiveness.

Article 306 of the Penal Code gives the Supreme Court power to cancel or reduce his sentence to a maximum of two years in jail and up to 60,000 ouguiya (US$173) if it determines that he has repented. We hope the court will order Mohamed’s release, given his demonstrated contrition.

Regardless of the court’s ruling, we ask you to instruct your government to ensure his physical safety inside and outside prison. Since his imprisonment two years ago, preachers have called for his death, according to press reports. Those who have spoken out on his behalf have themselves been labeled as infidels and received violent threats, according to news accounts.

In April 2014 you told reporters that you did not believe Mohamed was aware of the seriousness of what he had written. In this spirit, we ask you to acknowledge his repentance and ensure his safe release from prison.

Joel Simon
Executive Director
Committee to Protect Journalists

Christophe Deloire
Secretary general
Reporters Without Borders

Karin D. Karlekar
Director of Free Expression At Risk Programs
Pen America

Maran Turner
Executive Director
Freedom Now

CC:

Commissioner for Human rights,
Humanitarian action and relations with civil society
Ms Aichetou Mint M’Haiham
Commissariat aux Droits de l’Homme,
à l’Action humanitaire et aux Relations avec la société civile
B.P. 1258 Nouakchott Mauritanie
Fax: + 222 45 29 21 55
presidente@cndhmauritanie.mr

His Excellency Mohamed Lemine El Haycen,
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Permanent Representative of Mauritania to the United Nations
116 East 38th Street New York, N.Y. 10016
Fax: (212) 252-0175
Email: mauritaniamission@gmail.com

S.E. Ambassadeur Mme Salka Mint Bilal Yamar
Mission permanente de la Mauritanie auprès de l’Office des Nations unies à Genève, Suisse.
Fax: +41 22 906 18 41
Email: mission.mauritania@ties.itu.int

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