28.08.2020 Mauritania

Mauritania's ex-president says 'victim of score settling'

Aziz seized power in 2008 before being elected twice as president.  By THOMAS SAMSON (AFP/File)
LISTEN AUG 28, 2020
Aziz seized power in 2008 before being elected twice as president. By THOMAS SAMSON (AFP/File)

Former Mauritanian president Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz has lashed out at unnamed enemies, saying he had been targeted for "a settling of old scores" after undergoing a week-long interrogation over suspected corruption.

Aziz, who handed over power in August last year, took his case to the media late Thursday, three days after being released from questioning.

No charges have been filed against him although his passport was taken away and he is forbidden to leave the capital Nouakchott, his lawyer says.

"I am a victim of a settling of old scores, but I am going to defend myself," he said in his first public statement since stepping down.

"I spent seven days in unjust, arbitrary detention, even though I voluntarily drove to state security" after they went to his home, he said.

"I didn't reply to any questions, because the procedure is illegal," he said, adding however that he had "faith in the justice system."

Aziz, a 63-year-old former general, seized power in 2008 and served two terms as president before being succeeded in August 2019 by Mohamed Ould Cheikh El Ghazouani, his former right-hand man and ex-defence minister.

Aziz had gone to the headquarters of the General Directorate for National Security (DSGN) on August 17 after police went to his home and asked him to cooperate with investigators.

He has been the subject of a parliamentary probe this year into alleged corruption under his long spell in power.

Among the issues probed by the commission, according to sources in parliament, were the handling of oil revenue, the sale of state property in Nouakchott, the winding up of a publicly owned food supply company and the activities of a Chinese fishing company called Pully Hong Dong.

The commission's report has been handed to prosecutors, and four ministers whose names surfaced in the investigation have been replaced, including the prime minister, Ismail Ould Bedda Ould Cheikh Sidiya.

Aziz has been sidelined by Ghazouani since he took over after victory at the ballot box.

In December, Aziz lost the leadership of the party he had founded, the Union for the Republic (UPR).

The new prime minister, Mohamed Ould Bilal, was a minister several times under former president Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, who was deposed in the 2008 coup led by Aziz.

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