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.


Assad warns Russia failure may result in ‘destruction’ of whole Middle East

Tunisia President in Egypt for talks on regional issues

In rare step, Israel bars Palestinians from Jerusalem Old City

UAE to invest $35 billion in clean energy by 2021

Sohaib El Oussani reveals backstage of Europe Orient Documentary Film in Asilah

Tunisia joins anti-ISIS coalition to ‘obtain information’

ISIS gunmen shoot dead two Egypt policemen in Sinai

Trump prefers to 'sit back' and see what happens in Syria

Police arrest suspected ISIS recruiters in Spain, Morocco

Turkey, EU strike plan to stem flow of migrants

Iran nuclear review panel gives conditional nod to flawed deal

Erdogan urges Putin to reconsider air campaign in Syria

Iran expels Bahrain envoy in apparent retaliation

First hajj stampede bodies arrive in Iran from Saudi Arabia

US urges Libya rivals to move forward with peace deal

Israeli fire wounds at least 10 Palestinians in West Bank

UAE holds election for advisory council

Erdogan faces tough talks in meeting with EU leaders

Russia airstrikes target ISIS infrastructure facilities in Syria

Powers condemn targeting of Syrian opposition by Russia

Turkey accuses Russia of hitting Syria rebels to bolster Assad

Palestinians kill Israeli couple in West Bank shooting

Russia again strikes Assad regime's foes

Iran backs Russian military strategy in Syria

S&P: Gulf banks' net earnings set to slide

Russia confirms new air strikes on targets in Syria

12 killed in Ankara bus stop crash

Syrians, Afghans clash in German refugee centre

South Sudan's peace deal means little in Koch swamps

Trump: If I’m elected, Syrians go back home!

Iran says 464 dead in Saudi hajj stampede

Saudi, Iran agree to repatriate dead pilgrims

Abbas: Palestinians no longer feel bound by past agreements with Israel

Russia, US to hold ‘de-confliction’ talks on Syria

Three conditions as France voices concern over Russia involvement in Syria

Iraq Kurdish forces recapture land from ISIS jihadists

Tunisia buries Sousse gunman under strict security cordon

Iran diplomat missing after hajj stampede

Six days after hajj tragedy, Iran-Saudi tensions escalate

For first time in history, Palestinians to raise flag at UN

Finland freezes asylum decisions for Iraq, Somalia refugees

UK Labour Party ready to support Syria airstrikes, with conditions

Iran Foreign Minister under fire over ‘Obama handshake’

Parliamentary and religious support as Russia launches airstrikes in Syria

Assad regime strikes kill 27 civilians in central Syria