Mauritanian authorities detained for a week without charge at least three pro-opposition public figures appear as part of efforts to smother dissent over the outcome of a June 22 presidential election, Human Rights Watch said today. Authorities also shut down the Internet and arrested dozens of opposition activists.
“By shutting down the internet and locking up opposition sympathizers, Mauritanian authorities give the impression they want to suppress opposition to the election results,” said Lama Fakih, acting Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.
Authorities arrested activist Samba Thiam on June 25 at his home in Nouakchott. Thiam is founder of the Progressive Forces for Change party (FPC), which authorities have so far refused to recognize, and an activist with the Living Together Coalition (CVE), whose candidate, Kane Hamidou Baba, came in fourth in the election. On June 23, Thiam publicly denounced election results as fraudulent and authorities’ response to protests as excessive via his Facebook page.
Thiam told Human Rights Watch authorities confiscated his five telephones, two computers, USB drives, and various documents. He recovered the last of these items by July 16. Before releasing him without charge on July 3, Thiam said the authorities required him to sign a pledge to cease activities and speech promoting violence and extreme views – behavior in which he denied engaging.