Mauritanian blogger's death penalty pardoned, but he is still in prison

ould_mkhtiar Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mkhaitir | Twitter

Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mkhaitir, a blogger was sentenced to death publishing a blog entitled 'Religion, Religiosity and Craftsmen' in December 2013. He was sentenced in 2014. His family belonging to the moulamine(blacksmiths) community also suffered from social and economic exclusions.

In the blog he criticised the role of religion in Mauritania’s caste system and called for excluding caste and racial bias from Mauritania’s religious practises. He was also accused for insulting prophet Muhammad. The article spoke about the incidents from Prophet Muhammad’s life being used to justify slavery of people by the upperclass.

The court convicted him to death under the Article 306 of Mauritanian Penal Code that stipulates apostasy or renunciation of a religious belief or principle as a crime punishable by death. Article 306 also also has provision for a second chance where the accused could express repentence and receive lesser sentence or to be released without conviction.

But, in April 2018 the death penalty became mandatory for anyone convicted of 'blasphemous speech' and acts deemed 'sacrilegious” according to the new law passed by The Mauritanian National Assembly.

Even though an appeal Court reduced his death sentence to two years in prison and a fine on November 2017 he still remains behind bars. As of now, Mkhaitir is believed to be in need of medical care as his mental and physical heath was declining. Currently 32 Human Rights Organizations are campaigning for his release.