Target: Mauritania President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz
Goal: Do not put secular activist to death for exercising free speech.
Mohamed Mkhaïtir, a 33-year-old Mauritanian man, was sentenced to death by Mauritanian authorities in December of 2014. His crime was writing an article for a local newspaper’s website, in which he criticized members of his society for using religion to discriminate against and marginalize whole groups of people.
The article was quickly denounced as blasphemous and taken down from the website. Mkhaïtir was later arrested and charged with apostasy (i.e., renouncing his religious faith) and “speaking lightly” of the Prophet Mohamed.
He was held in pre-trial detention for a year, during which time he repented for his “crime.” At his trial, he explained that his article was not an attack on Islam, but rather a critique of people who use its precepts to incite bigotry against others. In spite of this, he was not shown clemency, and he became the first Mauritanian to be sentenced to death for apostasy since the country gained independence in 1960.
A person’s right to free speech is universal and inalienable. Mkhaïtir’s death sentence is a flagrant violation of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, which states that all people have “the right to receive information and the right to express and disseminate opinion.”
The notion of apostasy as a crime is contradictory to basic principles of human freedom. Enforcing such a law has one function: to coerce and control individuals. Mohamed Mkhaïtir’s death sentence is the ultimate affront to justice and liberty. Please sign the petition below, demanding that Mauritanian authorities exonerate Mkhaïtir and release him from custody immediately.
Dear Mr. Aziz,
The death sentence handed down to Mohamed Mkhaïtir is a violation of his basic human right to express himself freely. International humanitarian law states that no person can be subject to religious coercion. Furthermore, the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, to which Mauritania is a party, states that all people have the right to receive information and the right to express and disseminate opinions.
Mohamed Mkhaïtir is a prisoner of conscience, sentenced to death for peaceably exercising free speech. As you know, article 306 of the Mauritanian penal code grants leniency in the case of repentance. Mr. Mkhaïtir repented at his pre-trial hearing, and yet he was shown no leniency. At his trial, he denied that his writing was an attack on Islam, and still he was found guilty of apostasy and sentenced to death.
It is imperative that you facilitate his exoneration and release as soon as possible. Do not allow this horrible injustice to be carried out.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Rick Munish