Under Mauritanian law, this 31-year-old non-professional journalist has the right to request the supreme court’s clemency on the grounds of repentance. “We are dismayed by the Nouadhibou appeal court’s decision to confirm this young blogger’s death sentence,” said Constance Desloire of RSF’s Africa desk. “Mkhaïtir’s life must at all costs be spared. We urge the supreme court to take account of the sincerity of the regret he has been expressing since the day he was jailed in January 2014.”
Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mohamed Mkhaïtir
Article 306 of Mauritania’s criminal code says: “Any Muslim guilty of the crime of apostasy will be sentenced to death unless he first repents (...) If he repents before the sentence is carried out, the prosecution will refer the case to the supreme court with a view to restoration of all his rights.” Mkhaïtir has repeatedly expressed regret ever since his arrest in connection with an article on the Aqlame website in which he criticized the manipulation of religion by those who want to maintain the caste system. The court said the article contained “flippant comments about the Prophet” but Mkhaïtir has always denied wanting to
Mkhaïtir is the first person to be sentenced to death for apostasy in Mauritania since independence in 1960. An Islamic republic since 1991, Mauritania is ranked 48th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index.