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Detained ex-minister faces seven-year prison sentence

(MFWA/IFEX) - Isselmou Ould Abdelkader, an independent researcher who is being detained for criticising the country's military regime, was charged on 26 October 2008 with two counts of allegedly "lying" and "undermining the morale of the army".

A Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) correspondent reported that, if found guilty of the charges, Abdelkader will face five years in prison for undermining the morale of the Mauritanian army and an additional two years for peddling falsehoods.

Abdelkader has since been sent to a civilian prison in Nouakchott.

Abdelkader, a former minister in the regime of deposed President Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, was arrested on 21 October following allegations he made that members of the Presidential Security Unit (BASEP) who staged a 6 August coup were foreign mercenaries. Abdelkader made this comment on the Mauritanian state television programme "Point Lumineaux".

Two of the station's staff members, Sidi Ould Lemjad, the host of the programme, and Limam Cheikh Ould Ely, the director of Mauritania TV, were dismissed on 9 October. In addition, Cheikh Ould Ely was arrested and questioned by the National Gendarmerie on 22 October.

MFWA condemns these acts of repression of free speech in Mauritania and calls on the authorities to unconditionally release Abdelkader and reinstate the two dismissed staff members.

Updates the Abdelkader case:

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