Mohamed Mahmoud Ould Ebilmaali, the editor of the independent daily Akhbar Nouakchott, was freed on 21 May after being held for three days. Following his release, he told Agence France-Presse that the police wanted him to show them the hiding place of Jemil Ould Mansour, an Islamist opposition leader he recently interviewed.
"They also wanted to use me to find other fugitives, which I flatly refused to do," added Ebilmaali, who also writes for the Arabic-language edition of the daily Nouakchott-Info and is a stringer for the German public radio station Deutsche-Welle.
20.05.2005 - Two journalists arrested in anti-Islamist raids
Reporters Without Borders called on the Mauritanian authorities today to explain the arrests of journalists Mohamed Mahmoud Ould Ebilmaali and Mohamed Ould Abderrahmane in the course of anti-Islamist raids by the police. Ebilmaali was detained yesterday, while Abderrahmane was detained on 25 April.
"Arresting journalists is serious and requires the utmost transparency," the press freedom organization said. "Counter-terrorist raids are no justification for the use of the most repressive police methods and detaining people secretly."
Reporters Without Borders added: "If Ebilmaali has been imprisoned to make him reveal his sources or to punish him for interviewing the leader of an Islamist movement, we must voice our disapproval and call for his immediate release. On the other hand, if he and Abderrahmane are being held in prisons in Nouakchott for non-political crimes, the authorities must say so at once."
The editor of the independent daily Akhbar Nouakchott, Ebilmaali also writes for the Arabic-language edition of the daily Nouakchott-Info and is a stringer for the German public radio stations Deutsche-Welle (DW).
In a statement calling for his release, his newspaper said he was "abducted" from his home yesterday morning by "men in turbans who identified themselves as police officers." Local sources said his colleagues believed he was arrested for publishing an interview on 9 May with Jemil Ould Mansour, a leader of the Islamist opposition who is wanted by the police.
Abderrahmane works for the public television station. Since his arrest during an anti-Islamist raid on 25 April, Reporters Without Borders has tried without success to find out what he is charged with.
The authorities carried out several raids on Islamists at the end of April, accusing their leaders of being linked to foreign organizations such as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), an Algerian armed group that follows Osama bin Laden.