Mauritania Alert: Blogger sentenced to death for article on Prophet Mohammed

On December 24, 2014, a court  in Mauritania sentenced blogger Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mohamed to death.

Mohamed was arrested on January 2, 2014 and put in investigative custody before being charged with apostasy for an article published on his personal blog and on other websites in Mauritania.

His article, “Religion, religiosity and craftsmen,” was published on December 31, 2013 and criticised Prophet Mohammed’s decisions during “holy wars.” In the article, the blogger said that followers of Islam interpreted the religion according to their circumstances. He also reportedly criticised Mauritania’s caste system.

MFWA’s correspondent in Mauritania reported that, during his trial, Mohamed said he regretted his actions and had not intended to insult or “harm the Prophet.”

According to the correspondent, a fatwa (an Islamic religious ruling or a scholarly opinion by religious leaders on a matter of Islamic law) was issued to kill Mohamed following the publication of the article.

There was also a series of nationwide demonstrations, causing his family to denounce him and his lawyer to withdraw his services. After this, the court assigned him a new lawyer.

Blasphemy and insult-to-religion offences violate both the right to freedom of religion and the right to freedom of expression. The MFWA calls on the government of Mauritania to decriminalise apostasy and blasphemy offences in accordance with human rights law.

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