Mauritanian Court Upholds Death Sentence for 'Blasphemous' Blogger
An appeal court in the west African state of Mauritania has upheld the death sentence of a blogger accused of blasphemy, a judicial source told Agence France Presse on Thursday.
Cheikh Ould Mohamed Ould Mkheitir, who has also been named as Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mohamed, was initially handed the death sentence in 2014 on charges of "apostasy".
The appeal court on Thursday upheld the sentence but downgraded the charge from apostasy to the lesser charge of being an "infidel" after the blogger repented, the source said.
The source added that Mkheitir could still be pardoned by the Supreme Court "if they find that his repentance is sincere".
The accused, aged in his thirties, was arrested in 2014 after uploading an article onto the internet that authorities considered blasphemous.
The original announcement of the death penalty was met with public celebrations in two Mauritanian cities.
Rights watchdog Amnesty International has designated Mkheitir "a prisoner of conscience".
"He wrote a post on a blog criticising people who use religion as a means of discrimination and injustice," said Gaetan Mootoo, a west African specialist at Amnesty International.
He was "jailed for having exercised his right to free speech in a peaceful manner," Mootoo added.