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In December 2013, Mauritanian blogger Mohamed Mkhaïtir wrote a blogpost criticizing his country’s government for using religion to discriminate against minorities. On 5 January 2014, he was arrested and, with no lawyer, charged with “apostasy and insulting the prophet,” and sentenced to death—a decision that was subsequently reversed. He has now been in jail for five years.

In a statement on its website, Amnesty International described Mkhaïtir as “a symbol of the Mauritanian government’s repression against freedom of expression” who “is in jail as a result of his brave determination to defend victims of discrimination and slavery in his country.” The organisation is urging the international community to “tell Mauritanian President [Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz] to free Mkhaïtir and guarantee his safety.”

In January 2015, the court convicted Mkhaïtir of apostasy and sentenced him to death. The prison detained him in complete isolation for more than two years until his appeal.

After several back and forth between the Supreme Court and the Appeal Court, the Appeal Court eventually quashed his death sentence on 9 November 2017 and sentenced him to two years in prison. Having already spent more than three years in detention, he was scheduled to be released shortly after.

However, to this day, the authorities still detain him in an undisclosed location. As Mauritania’s Commissioner for Human Rights and Humanitarian Action of Mauritania Cheikh Tourad Ould Abdel Malick stated in May 2018, he is “under administrative detention for his own safety”. Mkhaïtir’s health condition is critically deteriorating every day and requires medical assistance.

Mauritanian authorities should end the arbitrary detention and guarantee the safety of the blogger, Mohamed Mkhaïtir.

Help us put global pressure on Mauritanian President Mohamed Abdel Aziz.

Urge him to:

– Release the blogger Mohamed Mkhaïtir and ensure his safety.

– Allow him full access to family members, his lawyer and medical treatment.

Amnesty International further highlights that “unfortunately, Mkhaïtir is only one of many activists who have been jailed in Mauritania for speaking against slavery and discrimination,” revealing that it “has documented over 168 cases of arbitrary arrests of human rights defenders since 2014.”

Read the statement on its website.

In April 2018, we brought news of Somaliland poet Nacima Quorane who was sentenced to death for advocating for a reunified Somalia.

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Otosirieze is deputy editor of Brittle Paper. He is a judge for the 2018/19 Gerald Kraak Prize and the 2019 Miles Morland Writing Scholarships. He is an editor at 14, Nigeria’s first queer art collective, which has published volumes including We Are Flowers (2017) and The Inward Gaze (2018). He is the curator of the Art Naija Series, a sequence of e-anthologies of writing and visual art focusing on different aspects of Nigerianness, including Enter Naija: The Book of Places (2016), which explores cities, and Work Naija: The Book of Vocations (2017), which explores professions. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review and Transition. He has completed a collection of short stories, You Sing of a Longing, is working on a novel, and is represented by David Godwin Associates literary agency. He combined English and History at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, is completing a postgraduate degree in African Studies, and taught English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu. Find him at otosirieze.com, where he accepts writing and editing offers, or on Instagram or Twitter: @otosirieze. When bored, he Googles Rihanna.

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