Mauritania: CPJ Calls On Mauritania Government to Release Blogger Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mohamed

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H.E. Mohamedoun Daddah

Head of Mission

Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania

2129 Leroy Place NW

Washington, DC 20008

February 20, 2019

Sent via email:

Dear Mr. Daddah,

I write to you from the Committee to Protect Journalists, an independent organization that monitors and advocates for press freedom worldwide, to request a meeting with you and other senior members of your government regarding the wrongful imprisonment of blogger Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mohamed, who remains in jail despite the fact that he was scheduled to be released.

A Mauritanian court sentenced Mohamed to death in December 2014 on apostasy-related charges, after he published an article in which he criticized the Mauritanian caste system. After the blogger repented, an appeals court in November 2017 reduced Mohamed's death sentence to two years in prison and ordered him to pay a fine of 60,000 Mauritanian ouguiya ($172). Having spent more than three years in prison at the time of this verdict, Mohamed was scheduled to be released. Yet he remains in government custody.

In December 2017, CPJ, along with other non-governmental organizations, sent a letter to Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz calling on the government to immediately release Mohamed, who is also known by the name of Mohamed Cheikh Ould M'khaitir, and take steps to guarantee his safety upon release.

CPJ is therefore deeply troubled by President Abdel Aziz's recent response to the blogger's detention. In December 2018, the president told French daily Le Monde, "He [Mohamed] has been tried and he should normally be released. But a large majority of the population opposes it. His release may pose problems of security to our country. For this reason, we are keeping him until we find a solution."

Mohamed's prolonged detention is taking a serious toll on his health. His sister told CPJ that the blogger suffers from physical ailments, such as acute pain in his head and body, in addition to psychological trauma. A doctor saw Mohamed and, despite his professional recommendation for medical care, Mauritanian authorities still have not granted Mohamed access to treatment, according to his sister.

We hope to work with you to secure Mohamed's deserved release and to ensure his safety after his release. Swift action would contribute to creating an environment conducive to freedom of the press in Mauritania. We are available to meet you or a representative of your government at your convenience to elaborate on our concerns and recommendations. We look forward to your response.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Courtney Radsch

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