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Mauritania: The Abdelaziz clan is on the offensive

By Justine Spiegel
Posted on Wednesday, 15 December 2021 15:29

Mauritania’s former president Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz remains in prison in Nouakchott © Antoine Gyori/GettyImages

Mauritania may try its former president amid a climate of relative indifference. Neither the country's partners nor its former allies seem to care much about Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz’s fate.

Marshal Idriss Déby Itno, with whom he was close, is no longer there to defend him, nor is his friend Alpha Condé, who was overthrown in September.

And he did not have good relations with either Macky Sall or King Mohammed VI. As for Abdelmadjid Tebboune, he prefers to keep him at a distance, as he is more concerned about tensions with his Moroccan neighbour and the situation in Mali, just like France’s President Emmanuel Macron, who has a good relationship with President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani.

Arrested on 22 June for failing to comply with his judicial supervision, Abdelaziz remains incarcerated in a villa within the Nouakchott Police Academy. He is being prosecuted for, among other things, corruption, money laundering, illicit enrichment, squandering public property and granting undue advantages.

His pre-trial detention, which was initially supposed to last one year at most, has been extended for another six months and his last four requests for release have all been rejected. Although Abdelaziz’s family has remained very discreet ever since he was prosecuted, they have decided to take up the case.

“Surveillance cameras”

On 6 December, Fatimetou, Mane, Menna and Maalouma Abdelaziz, the sisters of the former president, wrote to the International Committee of the Red Cross’ local delegation to inform them of his detention conditions.

In addition to the fact that visitors are allegedly subjected to “humiliating searches” at each of the “five checkpoints”, they denounce a “flagrant violation of the private life” of the detainee, who is still not allowed to go for walks. Four surveillance cameras have been installed “in his room and bathroom,” they write.

According to Abdelaziz’s entourage, this equipment was put in place on 29 November, the day after the police conducted a second search for a mobile phone. A transmitter was also installed. “A detail,” says Brahim Ould Ebety, president of the bar association and head of the group of state lawyers assembled for this case, who said he could “neither confirm nor deny” the presence of these cameras. “One thing is certain, his detention conditions are much better than those of other prisoners in this country,” he added. “He is not in an ordinary prison.”

A trial announced in 2022?

“Things have not progressed for almost six months,” says Taleb Khiyar Ould Mohamed Maouloud, one of Abdelaziz’s lawyers. “No proof of his guilt has been revealed and our client’s 313 co-accused are walking around quietly.” “But only he has violated his judicial supervision!,” Ebety retorts.

Thirteen other former officials, including two former prime ministers, are obliged to report to the National Security Directorate four times a week. “We are refining the interrogations in order to prepare the confrontations between the accused and the witnesses. There is a lot of evidence, and we will present it during the trial. We will be able to set a date in the first quarter of 2022,” says the state’s lawyer.

In the meantime, on 8 December, the former president published an open letter to his successor, Ghazouani, to whom he was very close, for the first time. “Were you so easily convinced of the validity of the accusations made against me? To tell the truth, Mr. President, you are the only one, if not one of the few people who know the origin and traceability of my assets, which happen to be declared to the Supreme Court,” he wrote, urging him “not to be a passive witness to an unjust and grotesque plot”.

Does Abdelaziz want to open a new channel of discussion with his former chief of staff? “He feels like he is being forgotten and wishes to raise awareness,” says his lawyer, Mohameden Ould Ichidou. To date, no mediation is taking place. “That is no longer possible,” says one of President Ghazouani’s close friends.

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