A Muslim man was sentenced to death in Mauritania this week for “insulting the prophet” in an article he wrote last year that a court ruled was blasphemous to Islam, according to Reuters. Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mkhaitir, 28, said his article was misinterpreted, and he pled not guilty to apostasy this year.
Mauritania applies a strict interpretation of Shariah, or Islamic law, which can sometimes be interpreted to allow for stoning or public flogging as punishment for certain crimes. The last execution took place in Mauritania in 1987. The court recommended Mkhaitir be shot.
Mauritania’s 1991 constitution establishes Shariah as the law of the land and Islam as the official religion of the country.
Mkhaitir’s article appeared to bring into question some of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad’s actions, according to a court source who spoke with Agence France-Presse. His lawyer asked the judge to sentence him with mercy because he was repentant and, in his words, had no “intention to harm the prophet.” Instead, the judge agreed to apply the death penalty, as requested by prosecutors.
In a separate action, a court in the southern part of the country began Tuesday the trial of former presidential candidate and anti-slavery activist Biram Ould Dah Ould Abeiday, who was arrested in November while leading a march against slavery. Mauritania was the last county to outlaw the institution in 1981. Between 10 percent and 20 percent of the country’s population lived in slavery as recently as a couple of years ago, CNN reported in 2012. Abeiday and six colleagues face as many as five years in prison. The Mauritanian government denies slavery is still a problem in the nation.