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Supporters of Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz celebrate in the street shortly after he was declared the victor in the previous day’s presidential election, in Nouakchott, Mauritania, July 19, 2009 (AP photo by Rebecca Blackwell).

Ahead of Mauritania’s Election, Activists Hope for ‘Light at the End of the Tunnel’

Thursday, April 4, 2019

For the past few days, free speech and anti-corruption activists have gathered outside a prison in Mauritania to demand the release of Abderrahmane Weddady and Cheikh Ould Jiddou, two bloggers who have long been critical of the government. The arrest of the two men last month appears to be linked to their reporting on an elaborate real estate scam that has driven down property values and defrauded thousands of Mauritanian families, all while allegedly benefiting relatives of President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz. Prosecutors have accused them of defamation, for which they face up to five years in prison if convicted.

In addition to sparking a local outcry, the case has resonated beyond Mauritania’s borders. In a statement Saturday, Human Rights Watch said Mauritanian authorities should free Wedaddy and Ould Jiddou and drop all charges against them; Sarah Leah Whitson, the group’s Middle East and North Africa director, said the proceedings were “clearly a case of shoot-the-messenger.” Reporters Without Borders has also called for the men’s immediate release. ...

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