NOUAKCHOTT, Mauritania (AP) — Mauritania’s authorities placed former President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz under house arrest Tuesday as they investigate allegations of corruption, embezzlement and money laundering made against the West African country’s last leader.
Aziz served as president from 2008 to 2019, handing over power to Mohamed Ould Cheikh Ghazouani in what became Mauritania’s first peaceful transfer of power since independence from France in 1960.
The 65-year-old former head of state will only be able to leave his Nouakchott home to pray or seek medical care. All requests must be approved by judges.
“The former president is unjustly being placed under house arrest, even though the judicial supervision to which he has been subject since his indictment last March has not been violated by our client,” lawyer Mohameden Ichidou said.
Aziz has refused to cooperate with the investigation, citing immunity as a former president and calling the prosecution illegal.
The former president had backed the 2019 candidacy of Ghazouani, his former defense minister and one-time friend. However, the two had a subsequent falling out over the control of their ruling Union for the Republic (UPR) party.
The dispute triggered a parliamentary inquiry in the former president, and a parliamentary commission found that Aziz was responsible for “misappropriations” during his time in power.
Mauritania, a moderate Islamic republic, has suffered five coups since independence in 1960 and was led by military rulers for much of that time.