Mauritania: Bloggers languish in detention two months after their arrest for condemning corruption

GENEVA, Switzerland, May 22, 2019,-/African Media Agency (AMA)/-Authorities in Mauritania must immediately and unconditionally release two famous bloggers who have been in detention for two months solely for posting on Facebook about alleged corruption in the country, Amnesty International said today.

Cheikh Ould Jiddou and Abderrahmane Weddady were arrested on 22 March by the Economic Crimes Unit in Mauritania’s capital Nouakchott, charged with ‘malicious accusation’, and detained at the central prison. Their national ID cards and passports were also confiscated by the authorities.

“Weddady and Ould Jiddou are known for their blog posts denouncing human rights violations and have inspired other young people across the country to exercise their right to freedom of expression including online,” said Kiné Fatim Diop, Amnesty International’s West Africa Campaigner.

“Their unlawful detention shows that the Mauritanian government is determined to crush dissent and use charges of ‘’malicious news’’ against perceived critical voices in the country. Two months after their arrest, Weddady and Ould Jiddou are still languishing in detention, and we are calling for their immediate and unconditional release.”

Weddady and Ould Jiddou criticized government alleged corruption in Facebook posts. Their allegations were based on media articles stating that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) had frozen around 2 billion US dollars in bank accounts belonging to individuals close to Mauritanian officials. They were first questioned as witnesses by the Economic Crimes Unit on 7 March, following a call for a judicial inquiry into corruption allegations. They were then arrested on 22 March. Three days later police searched their houses without presenting a warrant and seized Weddady’s computer.

“The Mauritanian authorities should be opened to debates, and criticism from human rights defenders, activists and journalists. Respect for and protection of the right to freedom of expression should be a priority for the authorities, ahead of a Presidential election next month,” said Kiné Fatim Diop.

“We are urging the authorities to release Weddady and Ould Jiddou and respect their rights to peacefully express their opinions.”

Background

According to one of Weddady and Ould Jiddou’s lawyers, the Mauritanian Supreme Court refused the lawyers’ request to annul the opening of the procedure and rejected the bail request submission.  A new bail application was reintroduced on 13 May. In a statement published on 22 March the Prosecutor denied media reports of corruption.

Distributed by African Media Agency (AMA) on behalf of Amnesty International.

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