Saturday 17 February 2018

Five demonstrators given suspended sentences in Mauritania

Five demonstrators given suspended sentences in Mauritania
(AFP (eng) 12/22/17)
Mauritania flew its new national flag for the first time in November.

Five Mauritanian demonstrators were handed suspended prison sentences Thursday for their role in a protest last week in the capital, Nouakchott, a judicial source said.

A separate source earlier said seven people -- five adults and two children -- appeared in court, but the prosecution dropped the case against the minors, AFP was told.

The group of five were given three -month suspended jail terms over the march organised by the "G8", a coalition of parties, organisations and unions opposed to political changes in the country.

The measures included a new national flag and anthem, approved in a controversial referendum in August. They required a constitutional amendment -- one that also abolished the country's senate.

The source said: "The five have been sentenced to three months in prison and have already been released during the evening."

The prosecution had sought three month prison sentences for violence against the police. The charges were later changed to ones of "incitement to rebellion", the source said.

Defence lawyer Mohamed Mahmoud Ould Lemmatt said the case was "empty and purely political", adding: "The regime wants to scare opponents, it will not succeed."

Amnesty International had called for the prosecution to be dropped, saying it was a "peaceful march" and that "the activists were arrested for brandishing the country's former national flag during the march".

Mauritania flew its new national flag for the first time in November.

Two red bands were added to the old green-and-yellow standard, symbolising the blood spilt in the fight for freedom from France, its colonial master, but the adoption of the design has been fraught with dramatic twists.

Before the referendum, senators from the ruling party of President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz joined opposition parties in seeking to block the measures.

One of the senators, Mohamed Ould Ghadda, a main opponent of the president's changes, was also arrested on charges of "corruption" in August, prompting him to go on a hunger strike that lasted several days.

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