Mauritania frees bloggers accused of defaming president

Fecha de publicación: 
04 Jun 2019
Two Mauritanian bloggers were freed on bail Monday after being held for more than two months on accusations of defaming President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, one of their lawyers said.
Their release as the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan was drawing to a close -- expected Tuesday or Wednesday in Mauritania -- with the Eid al-Fitr holiday often an occasion for pardons.
Unless the case is thrown out "as we continue to demand, we will ask that they be tried," lawyer Brahim Ould Ebetty told AFP.
Judicial authorities in the semi-desert West African country "wanted to get rid of a cumbersome case condemned around the world," he said.
Lawyers for the prominent young bloggers, Cheikh Ould Jiddou and Abderrahmane Weddady, said they were arrested in late March by the Economic Crimes Unit in Mauritania's capital Nouakchott and charged with "malicious accusation" over comments they made on Facebook alleging corruption among Mauritanian officials.
They had highlighted foreign press reports alleging the "potential freezing of a bank account belonging to the head of state by Dubai authorities", the lawyers said.
They also said the bloggers had investigated a Ponzi scheme that could have benefitted relatives of the president.
Asked about the allegations in early March, President Abdel Aziz dismissed them as "a rumour that will fade away."
Abdel Aziz, a former general, is stepping down after his second and final term in office, with elections set for June 22.
Freedom of expression in Mauritania has come under the spotlight in recent years, with international concern over a death sentence handed to blogger Cheikh Ould Mohamed Ould Mkheitir in 2014 for allegedly insulting the Prophet Muhammad in a blog post.
The sentence was later downgraded to a two-year term.
Mauritania fell 17 spots in Reporters Without Borders' 2018 World Press Freedom Index, thebiggest drop of any African nation.