A Mauritanian court sentenced the country’s former president, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, to five years in prison after finding Abdel Aziz guilty of money laundering and self-enrichment, his lawyer said on Tuesday (5/12).
Monday’s verdict brings an end to a rare corruption trial in the west African country and closes a chapter in the long journey of the strongman who helped lead two previous coups and later served two terms as president and became the country’s counterterrorism partner. -Western countries, including the US.
In a trial that lasted 11 months, Aziz and a number of other high-ranking officials in Mauritania were accused of siphoning state money to enrich themselves. The case marks a rare example of a leader in Africa being tried for corruption, although Aziz’s lawyers have long characterized the trial as a matter of contestation between Aziz and the current president, Mohamed Ould Cheikh Ghazouani.
“This is a political ruling whose ultimate goal is to strip the president of his civil rights,” lawyer Taleb Khyar told The Associated Press.
The two figures were long-standing allies, but relations soured after Ghazouani replaced Aziz as president in 2019 in the country’s first peaceful transition of government since Mauritania gained independence.
Ghazouani and Aziz clashed over Aziz’s attempts to take over the leadership of a major political party after quitting as president. A parliamentary commission then opened a corruption investigation into Aziz and 11 other defendants in 2020. In a ruling on Monday, the court acquitted four former ministers in the government, including two prime ministers, on the same charges.
The court ordered the confiscation of Aziz’s illegally acquired property. The court dismissed a number of charges, including embezzlement and endangering the public interest. (ns/hour)