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Mauritania Rejects Allegations of Political Oppression - 2003-09-08

The government of Mauritania is denying that human rights are being violated ahead of elections scheduled for November.

The Mauritanian government has refuted allegations made by the U.S.-based organization, Human Rights Watch, that it is harassing the political opposition.

The vice-prosecutor general of the Mauritanian Supreme Court, rejected the allegations Sunday and said the government is taking all the measures necessary to guarantee free and fair elections in November.

Presidential elections have been scheduled for November 7. But according to Human Rights Watch, the government is opportunistically using the language of counter-terrorism to crackdown on legitimate dissent.

The political environment in Mauritania has become more tense since an attempted coup d'etat in June. Numerous officers and junior officers were arrested in connection with the failed coup.

More than 100 of them went on trial in the capital Nouakchott this weekend. Charges against them include high treason and assassination and acts of sabotage.

Since their arrest the accused mutineers have been held by the authorities and denied access to their families or legal representation.

Mauritania has restrictive laws on freedom of expression, and its human rights record frequently comes under criticism from foreign governments and human rights groups.