Alleged Mauritania coup leaders held

A court in Mauritania has ordered three opposition leaders who were charged following coup attempts to be taken into custody on the eve of their trial.

    Former president Haid Allah is accused of financing the coup

    Former president Muhammad Khuna Walad Haid Allah and government

    opponents Ahmad Walad Daddah and Shaikh Walad Hurma are accused of f

    inancing the Cavaliers for Change, an armed insurgency

    created abroad by renegade military men.

    A defence attorney said the three were being held in custody at

    Wad Naga, a military garrison 50km east of the

    capital Nouakchott, where 191 people are on trial for allegedly

    fomenting various coup attempts against the government.

    "A villa was specially prepared for them in the interior of the

    garrison to spend the night before their appearance in criminal

    court on Tuesday morning," said lawyer Yacuba Diallo.

    He said he did not know if the three accused would be released

    after their court appearance.

    The court heard the testimony of five military and civil

    prisoners on Monday who all pleaded not guilty.

    Gun battle

    So far, of 155 people who have appeared before the court, only former commander

    Salih Walad Hananna, the alleged brains behind the attempted

    overthrows last summer, and commander Abd al-Rahman Walad Mini,

    self-proclaimed head of the Cavaliers for Change, have pleaded

    guilty.

    "I wanted to change a rotten and illegal regime by way of a

    coup, similar to that launched on 12 December 1984 by President Walad

    Taya"

    Salih Walad Hananna, alleged brains behind coup attempts

    "I wanted to change a rotten and illegal regime by way of a

    coup, similar to that launched on 12 December 1984 by President Walad

    Taya," said Hananna, denying charges that he had taken up

    arms against his country and led a seditious movement.

    An aborted June 2003 coup, quelled by loyalist soldiers after a

    36-hour gun battle, was followed by two other alleged plots to

    overthrow the government in August and September.

    Critics of President Muawiya Walad Taya's government say the alleged

    coup plots have provided a pretext for rounding up and banishing the

    political opposition, in particular Islamist activists who

    are

    gaining ground among the country's 2.7 million people.

    The pro-Western Taya government itself came to power in a 1984 coup.

    SOURCE: AFP


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