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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 February, 2005, 13:03 GMT
Life for Mauritania coup plotters
President Maaouiya Ould Taya
Ould Taya himself came to power in a coup
A Mauritanian court has handed life sentences to four soldiers accused of plotting three coups in two years.

Three opposition leaders, including ex-president Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidallah, were acquitted of financing the coup attempts.

There was applause in the courtroom as none of the verdicts for the 195 people on trial included the death sentence - as requested by prosecutors.

President Maaouiya Ould Sid Ahmed Taya took power in a bloodless coup in 1984.

He has been re-elected three times, but opposition groups say the elections were marred by fraud and intimidation.

Mr Haidallah stood against President Taya in Mauritania's 2003 polls.

'Political farce'

Among the four sentenced to life was former military commander Saleh Ould Hanenna, the mastermind of the 2003 plot.

He pleaded guilty to the charges saying he had acted for the good of all Mauritanians.

Defence lawyer Brahim Ould Betty said the trial was nothing more than a political farce and many of the accused had been tortured - which the government denies.

According to the BBC's Maghreb correspondent Pascale Harter, the jury which acquitted most of the people in the massive coup trial was made up of both military and civilian jurors.

Sentences for more low-ranking soldiers ranged from 18 months to 15 years.

One of the world's poorest countries, Mauritania is poised to benefit from the exploitation of its offshore oil reserves.


SEE ALSO:
Mauritania 'foils' coup attempt
09 Jun 03 |  Africa
Country profile: Mauritania
20 Jul 04 |  Country profiles



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