Amnesty International has called on Mauritania to “immediately and unconditionally” release two well-known bloggers who it says have been held for two months over social media posts about alleged corruption in the country.
Amnesty said the young bloggers, Cheikh Ould Jiddou and Abderrahmane Weddady, were arrested in late March by the Economic Crimes Unit in Mauritania’s capital, Nouakchott and charged with “malicious accusation” over comments they made on Facebook alleging corruption among Mauritanian officials.
“Their unlawful detention shows that the Mauritanian government is determined to crush dissent and use charges of ‘malicious news’ against perceived critical voices in the country,” said Amnesty’s West Africa Campaigner, Kine Fatim Diop, in a statement released on Tuesday.
“Two months after their arrest, Weddady and Ould Jiddou are still languishing in detention, and we are calling for their immediate and unconditional release.”
According to a statement from the lawyers for the bloggers, Brahim Ould Ebetty and Henri Thulliez, had highlighted foreign press reports alleging the “potential freezing of a bank account belonging to the head of state by Dubai authorities”.
They said the bloggers had investigated a property Ponzi scheme, which they say was fronted by a religious leader and could have benefitted the relatives of the president.
Burkina Faso has set June 22 for the first round of elections to succeed President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, a former general who is stepping down after his second and final term in office.
Freedom of expression in Mauritania has come under the spotlight in recent years, with international concern over a death sentence handed to blogger, Cheikh Ould Mohamed Ould Mkheitir in 2014 for allegedly insulting the Prophet Muhammad in a blog post.
The sentence was later downgraded to a two-year jail term.
Mauritania fell 17 spots in Reporters Without Borders’ 2018 World Press Freedom Index, the biggest drop of any African nation.
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