No democracy, no freedom under Islam
Responding at the beginning of 2014 to public outrage over an alleged blasphemous article, Mauritania’s President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, above, urged calm, telling the protesters he would take:
All necessary measure to defend Islam and its prophet.
Islam, he added:
Is above everything, above democracy and freedom.
Today it’s reported here that the man who sparked the fury in the west African country – Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mohamed, above – has been sentenced to death.
This is Mauritania’s first death sentence for apostasy since independence in 1960.
Mohamed, aged in his late 20s, fainted when the ruling was read out late Wednesday in a court in Nouadhibou in the northwest of the country.
He was revived and taken to prison.
Mohamed has been in custody since January 2, after his arrest for an article he wrote that appeared briefly on several Mauritanian websites.
His text challenged some decisions taken by Islam’s “prophet” Mohammed and his companions during holy wars.
During his trial, the judge told Cheikh Ould Mohamed he was accused of apostasy:
For speaking lightly of the Prophet Mohammed.
The defendant pleaded not guilty and said it was “not his intention to harm the prophet,” a judicial source said.
No information was immediately available on whether he would appeal.
Local Islamic organisations said it was the first time a text critical of Islam had been published in the country.
Mauritania upholds the strict Islamic law known as sharia. But it has not meted out the harshest punishments provided under that law, such as executions and floggings, for nearly three decades.
Mauritania last executed a prisoner in 1987, according to Amnesty International. Capital punishment is mainly reserved for murder and acts of terrorism.
President Aziz was “accidentally” shot in 2012 when a military patrol fired on a convoy in which he was travelling. He recovered in a Paris hospital.
In his article, Cheikh Ould Mohamed, named by some local media outlets as Cheikh Ould Mohamed Ould Mkheitir, claimed “an iniquitous social order” was being perpetuated in Mauritania, with an underclass that was “marginalised and discriminated against from birth” and to which he belonged.
His court-appointed lawyers had asked for leniency on the grounds their client was repentant.
But the judge agreed to the prosecutor’s request for the death penalty, ruling that the country’s criminal statutes called for capital punishment for any Muslim:
Who has renounced Islam explicitly or through acts or words in that sense.
The verdict was met with shouts of acclaim from the court’s public gallery, while on the streets there were jubilant scenes as cars sounded their horns.