For the past nine months, the former Mauritanian president, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, has been on trial alongside a dozen co-defendants, facing charges that include illicit enrichment and abuse of power.
Following the presentations from both the prosecution and defense lawyers, as well as those representing the president and co-defendants, the stage is now set for the final arguments. It is an opportunity for attorneys on both sides to make their last case before the court’s deliberations.
The proceedings commenced on Monday, November 20, with the rebuttals from the lawyers representing the prosecution. Each was allotted a maximum of 30 minutes to challenge the arguments put forth by the defense of former President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, which, according to them, rely more on interpreting constitutional articles than on the alleged facts.
One of the contested arguments revolves around presidential immunity. “Functional immunity only covers acts carried out in the exercise of one’s function. All the money found with Aziz’s associates are acts he entrusted, on a personal basis, to his close associates. This has nothing to do with the presidential function,” stated Maître Mohamed Salah, counsel for the prosecution.
Mohamed Salah further emphasized, “There are indeed acts carried out within the framework of his duties but are incriminated by anti-corruption laws. Article 93 has become a means of communication. They don’t want the debate to focus on the money found with the former president.”
Allegations that lack foundation, according to Sandrella Merhej, a lawyer for the Defense Collective, consistently assert the innocence of the former head of state and denounce an unconstitutional procedure. “The president has denied the accusations and has clearly explained the circumstances under which these decisions were made. This trial is a political one because it is not based on Mauritanian laws but on theories. Legal procedures are missing, evidence is lacking; it is simply done to exclude Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz from political life,” remarked Sandrella Merhej.
The defense lawyers will present their counterarguments later this week before the court decides whether or not to grant a final opportunity for the accused to speak before the ultimate verdict. In this case, the prosecutor had requested a 20-year prison sentence for the former president, along with the confiscation of his assets.