Mauritania indefinitely delays top court ruling on 'infidel' blogger

Cheikh Ould Mohamed Ould Mkheitir

NOUAKCHOTT - Mauritania's Supreme Court announced Tuesday an indefinite delay to the review of a blogger's death sentence over a post judged blasphemous in the conservative majority-Muslim nation.
Cheikh Ould Mohamed Ould Mkheitir was initially sentenced to death for apostasy in 2014 after being judged to have insulted the Prophet Mohammed.
Though his crime was downgraded by an appeal court, the accompanying capital punishment was not lifted.
A judicial source said the court had "adjourned its deliberations" due to the recent replacement of one of its justices.
Meanwhile Mkheitir's lawyer, Fatimata Mbaye, said: "The president of the chamber handed down a decision (to delay) during a public hearing, but in keeping with the law no date has been fixed for the reading of the judgement."
The new judge needed time to get to grips with the case, according to Mbaye.
Thousands gathered urging that Mkheitir's death sentence be upheld.
Earlier in the morning tear gas was used as they tried to demonstrate in front of the court, provoking scuffles, before police agreed to allow the protesters into a nearby square.
Mkheitir's article was deemed blasphemous but it also attacked "an iniquitous social order" in Mauritania, with an underclass descended from slaves that was "marginalised and discriminated against from birth".
Modern-day slavery under a hereditary system of servitude forces members of Mauritania's slave caste to work without pay as cattle herders and domestic servants, despite an official ban.
Capital punishment is usually reserved for murder and acts of terrorism. According to Amnesty International, Mauritania last executed a prisoner in 1987.