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Mauritanian court finds anti-slavery activists guilty in political trial

This statement was originally published on freedomhouse.org on 15 January 2015.

In response to today's decision by a Mauritanian court to sentence to two years imprisonment three anti-slavery activists -- Biram Dah Abeid, president of anti-slavery organization Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement in Mauritania (IRA); Brahim Bilal Ramdhane, IRA's vice president; and Djiby Sow, president of the non-governmental organization Kawtal -- Freedom House issued the following statement:

"We condemn this highly political verdict by the Mauritanian authorities, a verdict that is another example of the executive branch and the judiciary's failure to adhere to the rule of law," said Maïté Hostetter, program officer for West Africa. "The resilience of IRA members and their many allies is proof that attempts to stifle freedom of association, expression, and political dissent will not stop the strong pro-democracy currents running through Mauritania."

Background:

On Nov. 11, 2014, authorities arrested abolitionist Biram Dah Abeid along with eight others during an anti-slavery civil society event in the south-west part of the country. The activists were charged with crimes including inciting rebellion, threatening public order, belonging to an illegal organization, and participation in an unauthorized public gathering. International and Mauritanian human rights organizations condemned the activists' trial as politically motivated and part of ongoing government efforts to defame Abeid and the work of IRA-Mauritania. More than 25 lawyers worked pro bono to defend the activists, who remained in detention until their trial.

Mauritania is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2014, and Partly Free in Freedom of the Press 2014.

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