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.

 

Chief negotiator of Syria opposition quits over failed talks

Iraq forces enter ISIS-held Fallujah from three directions

Bahrain appeal court ramps up jail sentence against Sheikh Ali Salman

Sanctions gone, Iran drums up business with West

In Iraq town, fans of Real Madrid gather in 'challenge to ISIS'

Kuwait jails members of ruling family for insulting Emir

Tunisia blames ‘terrorist elements’ for deadly landmine blast

Turkey offers to join forces for Syria operation -- without Kurds

Starving Iraqis risk all to flee crumbling rule of ISIS

Saudi Arabia accuses Iran of sowing ‘sedition’ in Iraq

Israel police send Netanyahu spending file to prosecutors

Bahrain court upholds life terms for five 'spies'

Investigators need 12 days to recover EgyptAir black boxes

Iraq troops prepare for final assault on ISIS-held Fallujah

Iraq Kurdish forces launch offensive east of Mosul

Shipwrecks in Mediterranean claim up to 700 lives in one week

Iran blames Saudi Arabia for Hajj impasse

ISIS offensive triggers mass displacement in northern Syria

Without clear roadmap, Libya unity government fails to bring change

Iran moderate conservative retains parliament speakership

Iran delegation leaves Saudi Arabia without Hajj deal

Hundreds of civilians flee Fallujah area in Iraq

Khamenei urges Iran lawmakers to resist Western 'schemes'

ISIS-rebel clashes grip northeast Syria town

New US law could sanction Hezbollah officials

Thousands of protesters gather in central Bagdad

99 lashes for partying Iranian students

100,000 Syrians trapped after shock IS advance in Aleppo

Iran sticking to nuclear deal: UN watchdog

Turkey party seeks constitutional change to boost president's powers

Turkey accuses US of 'hypocrisy' on Kurdish militia in Syria

Israel environment minister resigns from 'extremist government'

US-led coalition pounds IS near Raqa

Tunisia mulls allowing women to serve in army

US-backed fighters battle IS near Syria stronghold

Tunisia tourism sees 'slight recovery'

UN envoy calls for economic rescue plan for Yemen

Bahrain jails 19 for attacks on police

Up to 30 dead in shipwreck off Libya

UN says Syrians will 'starve' unless aid improves

Christian homes set ablaze in Egyptian village 'love story'

Kuwait's main opposition group ends polls boycott

Twin offensives on IS edge forward in Syria, Iraq

Private firms to help in hunt for Egyptair black boxes

New Israeli defence minister's tough talk to be put to the test