Mauritania Blogger’s Death Penalty Reduced to 2 Years

Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mkhaitir

A Mauritanian appeals court Thursday reduced the death penalty for a blogger accused of blasphemy to a two-year jail term, a legal source said, after a case that has drawn protests from rights watchdogs.

Cheikh Ould Mohamed Ould Mkheitir, who will be released as he has been in custody since January 2014, was also fined 60,000 ouguiyas (146 euros, $169) by the court in northwestern Nouadhibou, the source said.

“It’s a great victory. The law has been pronounced and religion has been respected,” said one of his lawyers, Fatimata Mbaye.

Mkheitir, a Muslim in his thirties who is also known as Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mohamed, was sentenced to death in December 2014.

His blog was accused of questioning decisions taken by the Prophet Mohammed and his companions during holy wars in the seventh century.

He also attacked the mistreatment of the country’s black population, blasting “an iniquitous social order” with an underclass that was “marginalised and discriminated against from birth.”

On April 21 2016, the court of appeal confirmed the death penalty, but reclassified the crime from blasphemy to “unbelieving,” for which the punishment is less if the defendant repents.

The case was then sent to the Supreme Court, which on January 31 this year sent it back to the appeals court “in order to correct mistakes made,” without elaboration.


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