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Canadian to be freed in Mauritania

15 July 2013, 16:00

Nouakchott - A 24-year-old Canadian man is to be released from a Mauritanian jail after being sentenced to 18 months in prison and a $2 000 fine for alleged ties to al-Qaeda's North African branch, known as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, officials said.

Ahmed Ould Abdalla, the prosecutor of the appeals court, told The Associated Press that the court had decided on Sunday to free Canadian national Aaron Yoon, the same day as his sentencing, because he has already been imprisoned for the duration of his sentence. He was first arrested in December of 2011.

"The court has decided to free the Canadian, Yoon, because he has already served his time. He will be expelled from Mauritania immediately," said Abdalla.

Prosecutors had sought a 10-year sentence for Yoon due to what they claimed was his "link to dangerous terrorist activity and his role in the recruitment of jihadists." Yoon has denied that he had any ties to terrorism, claiming he came to Mauritania only to learn Arabic and study the Quran.

He accuses the Mauritanian police of botching his interrogation, by forcing him to speak Arabic, a language he had not yet mastered, and altering his deposition. During his recent trial, he refused to speak without an interpreter.

Yoon reportedly travelled to the region with two other Canadians. The latter two were implicated in a terror attack on a BP-operated natural gas plant in south-eastern Algeria earlier this year, one of the largest attacks in recent memory.

It ended with the deaths of 37 hostages including American, French, Irish and Japanese nationals. The attack was claimed by Moktar Belmoktar, a former commander of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, who split off from the al-Qaeda chapter late last year in order to create his own group.

Belmoktar had previously carried out several attacks in Mauritania, which has served as a fertile recruiting ground for the jihadists, who now have several Mauritanians in their ranks.

- AP


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