He was imprisoned in solitary confinement… Is the former Mauritanian president subjected to political absence?

Nouakchott – On October 13, 2012, former Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz was admitted to the military hospital in Nouakchott for treatment after he was hit by a mysterious bullet while he was on vacation in the state of Inchery, and then he was transferred to France to continue his treatment.

On Wednesday, December 29, Ould Abdel Aziz was admitted to the military hospital for treatment of a mysterious illness as well, but this time he was brought from a narrow cell, and he arrived with only security personnel, with a military cordon imposed by the anti-terror forces on the place.

The ruling majority in Mauritania described Ould Abdel Aziz as a reformer and inspiring leader, and refused to respond to the opposition accusing him of looting state coffers and destroying its capabilities, during his ten-year rule (from 2009 to 2019).

But things have evolved dramatically since the end of November 2019, when outgoing Ould Abdel Aziz sought to resume political work. Since that date, the majority responded to the demands of investigating corruption files during the man’s reign, and he ended up in solitary confinement.

Until today, the former president spent 6 months in detention without trial, after he was thrown in prison on charges of involvement in major corruption cases. While Abdel Aziz complains about the harassment of his jailers, his defense team says that he is “the victim of a systematic political file.”

A photo of former President Ould Abdel Aziz with former Minister of Staff and current President Mohamed Ould El Ghazouani (Reuters)

Wide accusations of corruption

The prosecution of Abdel Aziz began in the first months of the rule of the current president, Mohamed Ould Cheikh El Ghazouani (he took office in June 2019), with the formation of a parliamentary committee to investigate corruption files during the decade of Ould Abdel Aziz’s rule.

After reviewing extensive documents and listening to the testimonies of dozens of officials, the investigation carried out by a parliamentary committee led to the indictment of more than 300 prominent figures, led by former President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who was charged with embezzlement, money laundering, exploitation of state resources, and obstruction of justice. .

The file received great attention locally and internationally, when it was referred to the judiciary in July 2020; And it was a precedent in the country, which many hoped for to recover the people’s looted money.

the only prisoner

But the file later took complicated paths; Dozens of people who were linked to corruption files in the Ould Abdel Aziz era were not arrested, and the former president was the only detainee. In fact, the Public Prosecution requested to “reserve the names of a group of defendants,” which in legal practice means their acquittal.

Despite this, the government announced measures it had taken for a fair course of the file. The Minister of Justice confirmed that “the judiciary will take legal measures regarding the file.” However, these guarantees did not last long, as many violations followed in the same case.

The most prominent of these violations – according to what the journalist “Al-Hiba Sheikh Al-Saadi”, an activist in corruption investigations, says – “the selectivity of the accused in appearing before the investigation, then the selectivity of those whom the public prosecutor accused, as well as the selectivity after that in the judicial procedures. for pretrial detention.

Lawyer “Al-Mami Moulay Ali”, a member of the defense team of the former president, does not hide his surprise at the “volume of violations” for which he finds no justification, as he says, “other than targeting.” He pointed out that the period of judicial monitoring of those included in the file is about to end, while a few days ago, the pretrial detention of the former president was renewed for another 6 months.

This means, according to the lawyer, “that the rest will be removed from judicial control and all travel restrictions, while the former president remains in prison.”

For internal use only - the front lawyer Malay Ely in his officeEl-Mamy lawyer Moulay Ali said that the former president was prevented from implementing the agreement on the control measures imposed on him (Al-Jazeera)

A judicial file or a political assassination?

The Mauritanian government insists that the file is judicial and has nothing to do with politics. In a previous interview with French media, the current president, Mohamed Al-Ghazwani, denied the politicization of his predecessor’s file in power.

Weld El-Ghazwany said that “the case of the former president began with a parliamentary investigation and eventually reached the judiciary,” and that he took a vow not to interfere in the judiciary.

Also, commenting on this file, government spokesman Mokhtar Ould Dahi stressed that “there is no capital from the judiciary except the judiciary, and there is no capital in Mauritania except the constitution.”

On the other hand, supporters of President Ould Abdel Aziz and some observers say that his arrest and prosecution are just a way to remove him from the political scene.

They infer that the parliamentary investigation came after Ould Abdel Aziz announced his return to political action through the Union for the Republic, which has the overwhelming majority in parliament.

Journalist Al-Heiba ​​Al-Saadi asserts that the file is political. If the former president had not visited the headquarters of the ruling party in an attempt to resume his political activity through it, the investigation committee would not have been formed.

The defense lawyer says that the detention in prison was issued without any legal justification, but on the pretext of violating the provisions of judicial control that the former president was prevented from implementing when he was harassed and prevented from continuing to sign in front of the police, and then he was placed in a special solitary prison established by a decision of the Minister of Justice.

In a letter sent to the United Nations, the family of President Ould Abdel Aziz complained of harassment and violations against him. After he was prevented from exposure to the sun and exercising, surveillance cameras were recently installed in his solitary confinement, in addition to his detention without trial 6 months ago.

Amid the opposition boycott, Al-Ghazwani is sworn in as Mauritanian presidentPresident Ould Ghazouani (left) was sworn in as President of Mauritania in June 2019, with former President Ould Abdel Aziz (Al Jazeera) next to him.

Attempts to filter the file

After extending his detention for another 6 months, lawyer Moulay Ali does not see any intention to bring him to trial. He says, “This is the way in which political files proceed, as they often end with a political solution without trial, and in which pretrial detention is prolonged according to the delay in this solution.”

Al-Hayba, ladies, does not expect the trial to be speeded up, given the size of the files in which the former president is accused, noting that the Mauritanian judiciary has not previously considered a case of this size; Whether in terms of the embezzled money or the personalities involved.

He adds that there are indications that the state is seeking to liquidate the file through slow procedures, which will make the opinion lose its enthusiasm for the trial, “but in light of Ould Abdel Aziz’s reluctance to settle, the file will remain suspended.”

Some link between the arrest and imprisonment of the former president, and what the press and political circles have said about his attempt to overthrow his successor.

This was evidenced by sudden changes made by current President Ould Ghazouani in the leadership of the Presidential Security Brigade on the morning of November 28, 2011, hours before the start of the celebrations of the National Independence Day; Although the Minister of Defense “Hanan Ould Sidi” had previously denied to Parliament that any coup attempt had taken place.


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