Website editor still held three weeks after completing prison sentence

Published on 14 January 2010

Hanevy Ould Dehah, the editor of the website Taqadoumy, continues to be detained illegally in Nouakchott’s Dar Naim prison although he should have been freed on 24 December on completing a six-month sentence on a charge of “offending public decency.” The good news is that, under pressure from his family, he has abandoned the hunger strike that was threatening his health. An appeal by the prosecutor’s office was considered today by the supreme court, which ruled that Dehah’s case should be sent back to an investigating judge for a new trial on a date to be determined.

“It is scandalous and completely unacceptable that Dehah has not been freed, “Reporters Without Borders said. “The authorities have no right to keep this journalist in detention after he completed his sentence. Their silence on the subject just proves that they have absolutely no grounds for refusing to release him.”

The press freedom organisation added: “We urge them to free Dehah at once or risk incurring the wrath of the world’s Internet community, human rights defenders and some of their international partners.”

Dehah’s lawyer, Brahim Ould Ebety, yesterday told Reporters Without Borders he intends to bring a complaint before the supreme court against the attorney general to the court of appeal, state prosecutor, prison governor and prison assistant governor accusing them of criminal responsibility for Dehah’s arbitrary detention. If the judge in charge of the case refuses to order Dehah’s release, he intends to bring a disciplinary action against him before the Council for the Judiciary. If all these initiatives fail, he is also ready to take the case to the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

The Mauritanian authorities have one by one all declined to comment on the situation or defend their refusal to take action. The justice minister went so far as to claim that he was “unaware” of the case although this serious violation of fundamental freedoms has been widely reported in the media.

Dehah’s lawyer tried to visit Dehah on 7 January, at the end of the second week of his hunger strike, but the prison authorities refused to allow any visits as long as the hunger strike continued.

Ebety said he held President Mohammed Ould Abdel Aziz directly responsible for his client’s illegal detention, describing it as “a reprisal against those who dare to express their views.” He said it was “the first case of arbitrary detention of its kind and, to crown it all, it involves a journalist.

Calling it a “very grave national problem” that will only be resolved “by a very significant external action,” he added: “Only international pressure will force the president to back down. An appeal must be made to the European Union.”

More information about this case:

Watch a Reporters Without Borders interview (in French) with Hacen Ould Lebatt, the editor of the French section of the Taqadoumy website, on 8 January:

Watch yesterday’s Reporters Without Borders interview (in French) with Dehah’s lawyer, Brahim Ould Ebety: