A session opened at Nouakchott’s Criminal Court on 16 May dedicated almost entirely to terrorism prosecutions.
Seven cases, involving 21 defendants, will be heard. They are accused of links to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Aqim, and among them are the presumed killers of four French tourists shot in Aleg in 2007.
Eight people have already gone before the judge.
Two were acquitted. The six others' sentences were sentenced to between a two-years deferred to ten years.
All have been accused of “belonging to a terrorist organization” but each has faced various additional charges, depending on their alleged degree of involvement with Aqim.
The accusations range from forgery, providing vehicles or computer software, putting on line videos of kidnapped victims, to preparing terrorist attacks on Mauritanian soil.
So far, all defendants claim they are innocent and argue that their confessions were made under torture.
But defendants Abderrahmane Sahraoui hit a different note today. Accused of providing logistic help to Aqim, he said he was proud of belonging to the organisation and didn’t recognise the court.
He was given a ten-year sentence.
This defiant tone may be heard again next Sunday, when the biggest case, both in terms of the number of defendants and the seriousness of the crimes, begins.
The Aleg massacre, named after a city in the south, occurred on 24 December 2007. Four French tourists were killed and a fifth severely injured when a group of armed men attacked them.
Twelve defendants will be in the dock - nine accused of complicity and three of murder.