The government and relatives of terrorist suspects in Mauritania have
concerns as those charged await trial. The government has moved the
suspects inside a military garrison to prevent another escape, but
their relatives say they are innocent, and that they are being
tortured. VOA's Nico Colombant at our Dakar bureau has more with
reporting by Ebrima Sillah in this the third part of a series of life
in post-election Mauritania, after decades of military rule.
Women, mostly mothers and sisters of terror suspects, stage a sit-in outside Mauritania's Supreme Court in Nouakch.
Mint Ayouba says women have an advantage over men in having their
voices heard, because she says, if the men were here protesting, they
would be beaten up by police.
She says her only son was taken
away one morning, when police broke into her home with guns raised.
She says she has not seen him since.
Lala Mint Sidi is also
angry. She says her brother was in the final year of university
studies when he was arrested while sleeping at his home. She says he
is innocent and does not know why he is being jailed.
government has been rounding up dozens of people it calls suspected
Islamic terrorists, after a string of attacks against tourists,
soldiers, and the Israeli embassy.
After several key suspects in
the murder of the French tourists fled the main Nouakchott jail and
were recaptured, terror suspects were moved to a new prison inside a
Mint Sidi says she has heard the detained are being tortured, and that they are being kept up without sleep. She says she also heard the detainees were forced to sign statements
that had been written in French, even though they do not understand
A report issued by London-based Amnesty International
says that in May, about 40 people accused of involvement in armed
terrorist attacks were detained incommunicado for longer than the 15
days allowed by Mauritanian law. It said some were tortured.
terror suspects who were released said they had been burned with
cigarettes and had their hands tied under their knees and with a metal
bar suspended from the ceiling in what is called the "jaguar position."
International said there had been no public reaction from the
government about these allegations. Officials were not available to
comment about the women's protests or their allegations.
president of the Bar Association of Mauritania, Ahmed Ould Yusuf Ould
Sheikh Sidna, told VOA that with terror suspects all normal legal
procedures are being ignored.
Since their relocation inside
military barracks, he says, it makes it very difficult for defense
lawyers to have access to their clients. He says it is impossible to
know what the military is doing with the detainees, since normal prison
rules do not seem to apply anymore.
Sheikh Sidna says he
believes Mauritania's government is creating its own enemies, to get
more funding and U.S. help for its military as part of the war on
terror. He says he does not believe there are extreme forms of Islam
But anthropologists in Mauritania say Islamic
radicalism has grown during the past decades and accelerated even more
since open elections in 2007 ended years of military-dominated rule.
say unemployed youth, who come to cities losing their tribal roots, or
university educated men who get no jobs, despite working hard to get
diplomas, often turn to extreme religious ideology. They also say some
shows on Arab satellite channels, which are becoming more and more
accessible, also fuel extremism.
The government says the
terror threat is real, and that the group al-Qaida in the Islamic
Maghreb has been recruiting Mauritanians into training camps in the
Elected in 2007, President Ould Sidi Mohamed Cheikh
Abadallahi has denied restricting civil liberties. He has said the
democratic system Mauritanians are trying to put in place cannot accept