Mkhaïtir, as he is known, was initially arrested on 2 January 2014 after he published a blog in December 2013 that spoke of slavery and discrimination, including against the blacksmith caste, which he belongs to.
He was charged with apostasy and “insulting the Prophet Muhammad” in December 2015, before being sentenced to death. The sentence was subsequently commuted to two years in prison on 9 November 2017, which meant he should have been freed then on the grounds of time already spent in detention.
He remains, however, in custody at an undisclosed location, with limited access to his family and no access to his lawyers, after authorities failed to implement an appeal court ruling for his release granted on 9 November 2017.
The Mauritanian National Assembly passed a law on April 2018 that binds anyone convicted of "blasphemous speech" and acts deemed "sacrilegious" to the death penalty.
"Continuing to detain Mohamed Mkhaïtir demonstrates serious contempt for the rule of law by the Mauritanian authorities” said Amnesty International's West Africa Campaigner, Kine Fatim Diop.
“He is a prisoner of conscience whose life is in the hands of the authorities solely because he peacefully exercised his right to freedom of expression," she added.
For nearly a year, his lawyers have repeatedly requested to visit him, but they have still not received an answer from the Minister of Justice. Mkhaïtir is currently believed to be unwell and in need of urgent medical care.
The United Nations (UN) has, on several occasions, criticized the detention and death sentence of Mohamed Mkhaïtir. In June 2017, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded that Mkhaïtir's trial was unfair, his detention arbitrary, and that Mauritania was in violation of international law.