Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mohamed M’khaitir got arrested in January 2014. His crime? Writing an article that criticized people who use religion as a means of discrimination.
Well that does not sound like much of a reason for an arrest, if not, this article questioning the arrest of the man who wrote the article could also possibly guarantee its writer an arrest too. Mohamed however made the mistake of doing this in Mauritania and garnered himself a charge of apostasy for which he was convicted and handed a death sentence.
Apostasy refers simply to the abandonment of one’s religious faith and is considered a criminal offence in many Muslim countries.
So when the Mohamed who is currently in his early thirties had posted an article on the aqlame newspaper’s website in December 2013, reportedly criticizing Mauritania’s caste system, a sensitive subject in a country with deep social and racial divisions, and further criticizing those who used religion to marginalize certain groups, he did the unthinkable. The article was later taken down because it was deemed blasphemous towards the Prophet Muhammad.
His death sentence was upheld by an appeal court in Mauritania who then referred his case to the Supreme court. Mohamed has since apologized and said he never meant to insult the Prophet Muhammad.
The Supreme Court will only pardon him if it feels his repentance is sincere and under Mauritanian law, if the Supreme Court rules that a defendant is repentant, it can reduce the sentence to up to two years in jail and up to about $173 (£120), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reports.
When his death sentence was announced, it had been met with public celebrations.
The Committee to Protect Journalists says the appeal court hearing on Thursday was held under tight security and it understandably, condemned the ruling. The international press freedom group’s Sherif Mansour said in a statement; “This mockery of a judicial process, which could end someone’s life for writing an article, should be consigned to the history books”.