Mauritania releases opposition supporters arrested after vote clashes

Opposition supporters arrested in Mauritania during clashes after the disputed presidential election have been released following official confirmation of the ruling party’s victory, security and justice sources told AFP.

Ex-general Mohamed Ould Ghazouani won the June 22 poll with an absolute majority of 52%, the Constitutional Council, the final authority on Mauritania’s founding law, announced on Monday.

The internet, which has been cut since June 23, however remained inaccessible on Tuesday in the conservative West African country.

Four opposition candidates, who had claimed the vote was fraudulent and unfair, said in a joint statement on Tuesday that they were ready to help end the “current political crisis” through dialogue.

The opposition had complained that hundreds of people were arrested in a crackdown on post-poll protests.

The authorities have not provided an estimate of the number of people arrested but has said about 100 nationals of neighbouring countries, including Senegalese and Malians, were detained.

“Several activists and opposition leaders arrested during these events were released” on Tuesday, a security source told AFP, without specifying the number.

Activists and leaders of the coalition who supported presidential candidate Baba Hamidou Kane, who came fourth, were among those released, the source said.

Foreigners who took part in the clashes have also been released and others have been deported and charged with “undermining the security of the state,” a judicial source told AFP, without indicating their number.

Ghazouani will on August 2 officially take over the presidency from close ally Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who is stepping down after serving the maximum two five-year terms.

Ghazouani has left for France on a private visit, according to local media.

His election has been billed as the first democratic transition of power in the vast Sahel country since independence from France in 1960.

Mauritania, with a population of less than five million, has a history of military coups, the most recent in 2008.

© Agence France-Presse

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