Mauritania 'to execute' extremists who murdered American priest in 2009
A Mauritanian court has sentenced three radical Islamist extremists to death for murdering an American priest in 2009, media reports said on Tuesday.
The Nouakchott-Ouest Region court charged the three men of affiliation to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
The defendants however claimed that the Mauritanian police forced them to confess and sign incorrect statements.
The court hearing, which was reportedly attended by US ambassador to Mauritania, included another defendant who was released in 2012 after serving a three-year sentence linked to another conviction.
Mohamed Ould Yazid, one of the convicted men, accused US ambassador to Mauritania of excreting pressure on the Mauritanian judiciary.
The defendant called on the authorities and human rights to intervene to stop US ambassador’s alleged interventions, according to independent news agency Al-Akhbar.
The American priest was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in 2009 in the Mauritanian capital, who escaped the scene afterwards.
Mauritanian later security forces arrested a number of suspects and charged them with killing the then-39-year old US citizen and of affiliation to al-Qaeda.
Christopher Leggett grew up in Cleveland, Tennessee, and taught at an English and computer school in El Kasr neighbourhood in Nouakchott.
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb had claimed responsibility for the killing and accused Leggett of trying to convert Muslims to Christianity, according to an audio statement released to Al-Jazeera TV.