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Former Mauritania president on trial for corruption

Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz left office in 2019

BBC World Service

A court in Mauritania has begun hearing the corruption trial of a former president who’s accused of amassing a fortune of more than $70m (£56m) during his time in office.

Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz appeared in court in Nouakchott with nine other defendants.

His lawyers said he rejected the accusations against him and that his arrest at home on the eve of the trial amounted to kidnapping.

The former leader stepped down in 2019. He has accused his successor Mohamed Ould Ghazouani of turning the legal system against him.

In March 2021, a judge charged Abdel Aziz and 10 other people in his inner circle, including one of his son-in-law, several former prime ministers and businessmen, with corruption. One of his lawyers then revealed that Abdel Aziz refused to answer any questions from the judge.[ On 23 June 2021, a prosecutor speaking on condition of anonymity and the spokesman of the former president’s party Djibril Ould Bilal confirmed that a judge transferred Abdel Aziz from house arrest to jail after he refused to cooperate with police.

On December 29, 2021, Abdel Aziz was admitted to Nouakchott Military Hospital where he successfully underwent heart surgery. According to his lawyer, Abdel Aziz had fallen ill and suffered nose bleeds. In a statement released on the 29th, Abdel Aziz’s family claimed that the former president’s poor health came as a result of the corruption scandal, stating that they “fear for his physical liquidation” by the regime which “failed in its attempts to liquidate him politically.”

Abdel Aziz stood for re-election in 2014, and he won over Biram Dah Abeid, with nearly 82% of the popular vote.

Abdel Aziz did not stand for re-election in 2019 and was peacefully succeeded by Mohamed Ould Ghazouani.

Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz (Arabic: محمد ولد عبد العزيز Muḥammad Wald ‘Abd al-‘Azīz; born 20 December 1956) is a former Mauritanian politician who was the 8th President of Mauritania, in office from 2009 to 2019. A career soldier and high-ranking officer, he was a leading figure in the August 2005 coup that deposed President Maaouya Ould Sid’Ahmed Taya, and in August 2008 he led another coup, which toppled President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi. Following the 2008 coup, Abdel Aziz became President of the High Council of State as part of what was described as a political transition leading to a new election. He resigned from that post in April 2009 in order to stand as a candidate in the July 2009 presidential election, which he won. He was sworn in on 5 August 2009. He was subsequently re-elected in 2014, then did not seek re-election in 2019. He was succeeded by Mohamed Ould Ghazouani, who assumed office on 1 August 2019.

Abdel Aziz also served as the Chairman of the African Union from 2014 to 2015. In June 2021, Abdel Aziz was jailed months after he was charged with corruption.

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