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Appeals court upholds one-year prison sentence for editor accused of defaming businessman

(MFWA/IFEX) - On 11 February 2008, an appeals court in Nouakchott confirmed the one-year prison sentence imposed on Abdel Fettah Ould Abeidna, managing editor of the "Al-Aqsa" newspaper, for defaming businessman Mohamed Ould Bouammatou.

The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA)'s correspondent reported that the court also set aside the initial 300 million ouguiyas (approx. US$1.2 million) in damages awarded against the journalist, pending determination of befitting damages to Bouammatou. The correspondent said the court is expected to invite an expert to determine the amount by 8 March.

On 7 November 2007, Abeidna was sentenced to one year in prison, a fine of 50,000 ouguiyas (approx. US$200) and the 300 million ouguiyas in damages and interest. The journalist, who was out of the country, filed an appeal.

On 16 May 2007, "Al-Aqsa", a daily Arabic-language newspaper, published an article linking Bouammatou to a drug scandal. Unhappy about the article, the businessman filed a complaint to the authorities, following which Abeidna was arrested and subsequently detained on 24 May 2007 under a court order.

The journalist was granted bail on 28 May 2007 after four days in detention. He was initially charged with "defamation" under the press law, but the Supreme Court changed it to "false accusation" under the criminal code.

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