Mauritania: death sentence for blasphemy

Blogger Cheikh Ould Mohamed of Mauritania was sentenced to death for apostasy on Dec. 25 after a court convicted him of "speaking lightly of the Prophet Mohammed" on websites. The defendant fainted when the ruling was read out in a court in the port town of Nouadhibou, judicial sources told AFP. He was revived and taken to prison. Mohamed says he is repentant, and his lawyer pleaded for leniency. Mauritania has the death penalty, although Amnesty International says it has not carried out any executions since 1987. Sharia law is recognized, but enforcement of strict punishments such as floggings have been rare since the 1980s. (AFP via Al Arabiya, Dec. 25) Supporters have launched a Free Mohamed Cheikh wesbite.

In related news, a ruling is imminent in the case of eight anti-slavery activists, who were arrested in November on charges of protesting without a permit. Among those who may face prison is Biram Dah Ould Abeid, recipient of the 2013 UN Human Rights Prize, who has been called the Mauritanian Nelson Mandela. (UNPO, Jan. 6)