By Bakari Gueye
A Mauritanian appellate court recently upheld the death sentence for an al-Qaeda assassin convicted last year in the murder of an American aid worker.
Mohamed Abdallahi Ould Ahmednah was originally sentenced to death in 2011 for the killing of Christopher Leggett, gunned down in Nouakchott in 2009. The court handed down the final decision May 15th.
Also sentenced were accomplices Didi Ould Bezeid and Mohamed Mahmoud Ould Khona, who received 12 and 3 years in prison respectively. All three men are members of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
Oum Elkheiry, Ould Ahmednah’s mother, drew attention to her son’s deteriorating health during his appeal. “I am imploring the president to put my sick son in a Nouakchott prison so that he can get the appropriate care and see his family,” she said.
“There is no way Ould Ahmednah could have escaped the death penalty – he is convicted of participating in the 2008 Tourine attacks that killed several Mauritanian soldiers as well as for his role in the 2009 slaying of Christopher Leggett in Nouakchott,” legal practitioner Sid’Ahmed Ould El Ghouth noted.
According to Abdallahi Ould Ahmed of the Chouhoud newspaper, “Leggett was gunned down in broad daylight with three bullets to the head in the centre of Nouakchott while he was getting out of his car in front of the school of English and information technology that he had directed for several years. His killers at first tried to kidnap him, but when he put up strong resistance, they shot him.”
Mauritanians were not surprised by the verdict.
“The population harshly condemns such acts and doesn’t necessarily share the views of the perpetrators,” teacher Moustapha Salek Ould Salem said. “This was the case when Mr Leggett was shot but also when four French citizens were killed – Mauritanians were outraged.”
For his part, Ahmed Ould Jidou insisted that “Mauritanian parties have always made it clear to everyone that their followers were always told to refrain from violence.”
According to Ramdane Ould Cheikh, a legal practitioner, Mauritania has not carried out the death penalty since 1987, despite several death sentences for terrorists.
“The enforcement of the death penalty could very well deter young people from being drawn into terrorism,” Ould Cheikh said.