NOUAKCHOTT (Reuters) - Muslim clerics in Mauritania on Sunday urged the authorities to execute a blogger who was sentenced to death in 2014 for apostasy after writing a blog post on Islam and racial discrimination.
Mohamed Ould Cheikh Ould Mkhaitir’s article touched a nerve in Mauritania, a West African country with deep social and racial divisions. He was tried for apostasy and received the death penalty despite having repented and saying his article was misunderstood.
According to the U.S.-based Freedom Now rights group who provide Mkhaitir with legal counsel, the blog post appears to have been the first he published. Prior to his arrest he worked as an engineer for a mining company and was not an activist, Freedom Now said on its website.
Mauritania has not applied a death penalty since 1987 but on Sunday, the influential Forum of Imams and Ulemas on issued a fatwa, or Islamic decree, calling for Mkhaitir to be killed.
It condemned “Mkhaitir and his heresy, recalling that the legal penalty in his case is death, with no exception made for his repentance,” according to a statement.
“We demand that the competent authorities apply the law: kill him and bury him in conformity with the law of God.”
Rights groups like Amnesty International and Reporters without Borders have campaigned for Mkhaitir’s pardon and release.
Reporting by Kissima Diagana; Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky