A Mauritanian member of parliament who has been held behind bars for five months has been set free, according to official Mauritanian sources in the capital, Nouakchott, and rights defenders.

People hold a banner reading “No to slavery” during a demonstration against discrimination in Nouakchott on April 29, 2015. Thousands of descendants of Moorish slaves in Mauritania, known as the “Haratin”, protested in Nouakchott on the evening of April 29 against discrimination and to demand justice and equality for the Haratin. AFP PHOTO / STRINGER / AFP PHOTO / –

The anti-slavery activist, MP Biram Ould Dah Ould Abeid, was released on New Year Eve after five months in detention.

In his first interviewed out of prison, he said the government is afraid of his party and the work he is doing to stop modern day slavery in Mauritania.

Mauritania anti-slavery activist Biram Ould Dah Ould Abeid (C) is welcomed by supporters as he walks out of jail after the country’s supreme court downgraded the crimes they were convicted of last year and ordered their release, on May 17, 2016 in Nouakchott. Ould Abeid, runner-up in the 2014 presidential elections and leader of the Abolitionist Movement in Mauritania, had been sentenced to two years in jail along with Ould Abetty for a public order offence and belonging to a non-authorised organisation following an anti-slavery protest. The supreme court downgraded those offences to failing to disperse when ordered to do so by officers of the law, a charge which carries a maximum one-year jail sentence, meaning they have already served their time. / AFP PHOTO / STR

His political party and NGO have been banned, preventing the political party and Biram Ould Dah Ould Abeid to run for presidential elections planned for next September.

Despite his imprisonment, he maintains his seat in parliament which was won in 2008.

He was arrested after a journalist deposited a complaint against him. The complaint is seen by anti-slavery campaigners as masking action by the government which does not agree that slavery persists in Mauritania and that the country is buried in racism targeting Mauritanians of black African descent.

Observers believe that the release, which really only comes after the MP had served the six-months prison sentence he was given last August, should help lower the political tension in the country.

[Anti-slavery banner and Biram hailed for his work. Photos courtesy of Le Monde newspaper]

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