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Security disperse protests in Mauritanian capital

Protests demand execution of blogger convicted of apostasy

Security disperse protests in Mauritanian capital FILE PHOTO

By Mohamed al-Bakai

NOUAKCHOTT, Mauritania

Police dispersed demonstrations held after Friday prayers in capital Nouakchott that were demanding the execution of a blogger convicted of committing apostasy.

Police had resorted to sound bombs and tear gas to disperse the demonstrators while protesters set fire to tires and chanted slogans calling for the execution of blogger Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mkhaitir.

Earlier on Friday, authorities stepped up security across Mauritania in response to calls for demonstrations.

On Thursday, a Mauritanian court slapped blogger Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mkhaitir with two years behind bars for criticizing Islamic tenets.

The alleged light sentence sparked outrage with several political parties and groups issuing calls for Friday demonstrations -- in the city of Nouadhibou and capital Nouakchott -- amid demands for the blogger be executed.

Police and gendarmerie units were reportedly deployed on the main streets of both cities.

Earlier Friday, hundreds of people in the eastern city of Laayoune hit the streets to condemn the alleged light sentence handed down against the blogger.

In January 2014, Ould Mkhaitir was arrested and later convicted of “heresy”. In December of the same year, he was slapped with a death sentence.

In April 2016, the Nouadhibou court of appeals upheld the death sentence, but later changed the charge against Ould Mkhaitir to "apostasy".

In January this year, Mauritania’s Supreme Court threw out the sentence and ordered a retrial by different judges, who later sentenced him to only two years behind bars.

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