First Published: 2005-02-03

 
Mauritania coup trial ends with 84 guilty verdicts
 

84 putschists have jail terms ranging from 15 years to 18 months for bankrolling plots to overthrow president.

 

Middle East Online

No death sentences

WAD NAGA, Mauritania - Mauritania wrapped up its largest-ever trial Thursday, issuing guilty verdicts to 84 putschists and acquitting more than 100 others including a former president accused of bankrolling three plots to overthrow President Maaouiya Ould Taya.

Four ringleaders of the plots starting with a bloody uprising in June 2003 and followed by back-to-back attempts in August and September of last year were sentenced to life in prison by the military and civilian jury presided by chief justice Mohamed El Hadi Mohamed.

Jail terms ranging from 15 years to 18 months were imposed against 80 other defendants, many of whom have been in prison since the June 7-9 coup attempt in 2003, that was foiled in a 36-hour gunbattle with loyalist soldiers at a military barracks near the capital, Nouakchott.

Death sentences had been recommended for 17 defendants including coup mastermind Saleh Ould Henenna, a former army major, and his associate, former captain Abderrahmane Ould Mini, alone among the 176 defendants who appeared in court to plead guilty to charges filed against them.

They refused, however, to answer charges that they had taken arms against Mauritania, a vast mostly-Muslim nation that straddles Arab and African culture and is among the world's poorest despite abundant mineral and oil wealth.

Slavery was only abolished in 1980, underscoring the deep racial and ethnic divisions that Ould Hennena said were the impetus behind his bid to oust Ould Taya, who has ruled with an iron fist since 1984.

In his closing argument on Sunday, he called for "a political act of salvation for the Mauritanian people" similar to the overthrow of authoritarian regimes in Portugal, Sudan and Mali.

Life sentences were imposed in absentia on Mohamed Ould Salek and Mohamed Ould Cheikhna, the founder of the exiled band of renegade military officers known since June 2003 as Knights of Change.

Former president Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidalla, ousted in 1984 by Ould Taya, was acquitted on charges he bankrolled the putsch attempts and spared a five-year jail term that had been recommended by prosecutors.

Also acquitted for their alleged financing of the plots were opposition leaders Cheikh Ould Horma and Ahmed Ould Daddah.

Lawyer Fatimata Mbaye, one of the 70 lawyers assigned as defense counsel for the military and civilian defendants, said appeals would be filed to the supreme court within the 15-day deadline set by the court.

Reactions in the packed courtroom ranged from jubilation to tears from family members, many of whom made the 50-kilometer (30-mile) trek almost daily to support their loved ones at the trial that opened November 21 at a makeshift courtroom attached to the Wad Naga prison, east of the capital.

Taya's government, a strong ally of both the United States and France and one of just three Arab countries with diplomatic links with Israel, had accused Libya and Burkina Faso of backing the coup plots, saying the putschists had ties to Islamists who are gaining ground among the country's 2.7 million people.

Others suggested that the plots to overthrow Taya were linked to Mauritania's support for the US invasion of Iraq, as Ould Hennena reportedly commanded a tank unit that had been equipped in the late 1980s and early 1990s by deposed Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.

 

Post-coup Turkey continues military shake-up

Egypt Christians hope for end to discrimination with new law

Morocco arrests 52 suspects planning to set up ISIS branch

HRW accuses Syria, Russia of using banned cluster munitions

Study says lack of exercise cost world $67.5 billion

France, Britain call for end to Aleppo siege

Al-Qaeda OKs breaking ties with Syria affiliate

Croatia arrests Kurdish man wanted by Turkey

Tunisian army kills two 'terrorists'

Turkey sees over 40% drop in visitors

Assad offers amnesty to Syria rebels if they surrender

Second France church attacker formally identified

Clinton camp accuses Trump of inviting foreign spying

Coalition opens formal investigation into Syria civilian deaths

Pope to journalists: 'World at war', but not a religious war

Turkey warns post-coup crackdown ‘not completed yet’

Egypt top Muslim cleric denounces murder of French priest

Russia denies meddling in US election campaign

Syria regime kills 16 civilians in Aleppo assault

Killer of France priest was 'Syria obsessed time-bomb'

Netanyahu defends war record after protest by parents of dead soldiers

44 dead in double bomb blast in Syria Kurdish city

Marketplace bomb in Yemen kills 7

Kuwait jails Shiite MP for insulting Arab Gulf states

Iran presidential election set for May 2017

ISIS claims deadly bombing in Syria Kurdish city

Bahrain tries prominent Shiite cleric

Turkey planning anti-Gulen army purge before coup

Turkey issues more arrest warrants for journalists

Israeli raid kills Hamas member said to be behind attack

Saudi condemns "in the strongest terms" deadly attack on France church

Egypt has asked IMF for financial support

Shabaab says suicide bomber was ex-Somali MP

Bahrain refers 138 ‘terror’ suspects to court

Brutal attacks reignite political friction in Germany

Weakened army still faces twin challenges in Turkey

Turkey detains top generals, prominent journalists in widening purge

Hamas 'summer camp' trains dozens of young people for war

Palestinians seek to sue Britain over 1917 Balfour Declaration

UN hopes Syria peace talks can resume late August

Israeli authorities destroy 11 Palestinian homes in Jerusalem

Libya demands explanation over presence of French troops

ISIS claims attack on French church in Normandy

Erdogan accuses EU of not paying up under migrant deal

Study: Height down in some MENA countries