Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Mauritania: Biram and six others charged

Discussion, anger and demonstrations over the actions of Biram Dah Ould Abeid are likely to continue for a long time. He and six other anti-slavery activists were formally charged at the end of May with threatening state security after they burned certain Malikite religious texts that they interpret to endorse slavery.

Biram's actions provoked massive public outcry throughout Mauritania and far beyond, especially across the Islamic world. Human rights organisations have mostly come to Biram's defence. Amnesty International's West Africa Researcher Gaeton Mootoo said the activists should be released. “These human rights defenders have the right to express their opinion”, he said.

Mootoo noted that Biram, the leader of one local anti-slavery group, has been an outspoken critic of human rights in Mauritania. He said that Biram has long denounced acts of slavery and the impunity enjoyed by slave owners.

The announcement of the charge prompted a further demonstration by Biram's supporters, which was broken up by police.

No trial date has yet been set. However, what is certain is that Biram's case will long be the focus of dispute and demonstration, with his trial, if it takes place, being the subject of much international interest.

For more news and expert analysis about Mauritania, please see Mauritania Politics & Security.

© 2012 Menas Associates

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