The three Mauritanians charged with, among other things, terrorism, premeditated murder and rebellion in the case of the Aleg tourist killings have all been sentenced to death (others received prison terms or were acquitted). It is possible for the sentences to be commuted to life in prison; executions are commonly commuted in Mauritania for tribal and political considerations. Whether their sentences are commuted or not will depend on similar calculations, though sources believe the men will be executed. Accounts of the trial have family members of the accused in loud disapproval. The accused shouted defiant slogans on their way out of court as well. Practically every account noted a heavy security presence. Sahara Media reports that Mohamed Ould Chabarnou led the prisoners in Salat al-ʿAsr in confinement. Ould Chabarnou’s comments were defiant, maintaining that “we will continue war against the French” and “to France and America: between you and us is the sword!” According to al-Akhbar a black banner reading “There is no God but God” was raised in the court room. Whether the sentences are commuted or not will give some indication as to the positioning of the government towards the Islamist movement. Comments from both Jamil Ould Mansour, head of Tawassoul, and Sheikh Mohamed Hassan Ould Dedew will give a relatively more explicit indication. Worry about AQIM retaliation is on the minds of many; in the government there is concern that the proceedings may have alienated the Islamist movement and that its friends there may have irritated western governments in their commentary. Ould Dedew’s comments regarding last week’s verdicts irritated some in diplomatic circles and the Americans and French will be watching this file especially closely going ahead.
More to come.