Hanevy Ould Dehah, the editor of the website Taqadoumy, was finally freed today along with around 100 ordinary offenders under a presidential pardon issued in honour of Mawlid (the Prophet Mohammed’s birthday).
“We welcome Dehah’s release after eight months of unjustified detention,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The president seems to have heard the appeals from Mauritanian journalists and the international community. We thank them for interceding.”
Dehah’s lawyer, Brahim Ould Ebety, said his client had become an embarrassment for the government. He thanked all those who fought for Dehah’s release and said without them his client would still be in prison.
The legal void in Mauritania regarding online journalists must be filled as a matter of urgency so that similar cases to not recur. On 29 December, Reporters Without Borders sent the government a series of recommendations aimed at improving respect for press freedom. One of the recommendations was an overhaul of Internet legislation.
05.02.2010 - Court imposes new two-year sentence on website editor
Reporters Without Borders is outraged by the harsh, two-year jail sentence which a court passed yesterday on Hanevy Ould Dehah, the editor of the website Taqadoumy, at the end of an incomprehensible and arbitrary trial. Dehah, who was not freed in December on completing a six-month sentence of a charge of violating public decency, was convicted this time on charges of violating public decency, inciting revolt and “criminal publication.”
The press freedom organisation, which met the Islamic Republic of Mauritania’s president, Mohammed Ould Abdel Aziz, last October, requests a new meeting with the president. It also requests permission to visit Dehah in prison.
“We fail to understand how the judicial authorities could reach such a decision at the end of this farcical trial,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Why didn’t they just give Dehah a 2½-year sentence in the first trial? This is a disgrace! The position of the Mauritanian authorities is confused. On the one hand they send positive signals but, on the other, they allow the principles of press freedom to be trampled on.”
The organisation added: “President Abdel Aziz was reassuring when Dehah’s case was raised during our meeting in October and the media legislation that Mauritania adopted in 2005 is the best in the sub-region. Dehah’s treatment at the hands of the courts is a major step backwards. This case has damaged Mauritania’s image and could discourage its international partners, especially if it goes before the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights. It is in the general interest to acquit him on appeal and release him at once.”
Dehah was kept in prison illegally after he completed the original six-month sentence on 24 December. Arrested in June and unjustly convicted in August, this new trial was supposed to have retried the entire case but an opportunity was missed to clear him.
Mauritania’s journalists have been campaigning for his release for weeks, organising rallies and pleading his case with the authorities. The Union of Mauritanian Journalists (SJM) has described the latest conviction as “a retrograde step as regards treatment of the media.”
See the previous release:http://www.rsf.org/Still-held-illegally-website.html
Watch a Reporters Without Borders interview in French with Dehah’s lawyer, Brahim Ould Ebety, on 13 January: http://www.rsf.org/Website-editor-still-held-three.html