Mauritanian authorities have released former President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz on bail for medical reasons, the justice ministry said on Friday, amid an investigation into allegations of high-level corruption during his time in office.
Abdel Aziz, 65, who stepped down in 2019 after serving two five-year terms, was moved from house arrest to state custody in June. He has previously denied the corruption allegations.
In late December he was admitted to a hospital in the capital, Nouakchott, for heart treatment, and his family has called for his evacuation abroad.
The justice ministry said the bail decision was based on a doctor’s report that Abdel Aziz needed a stress-free environment and a special diet.
He will remain under judicial and medical supervision, it said in a statement.
His lawyer Mohameden Ichidou welcomed the move as “a step forward which will allow us to continue to demand the release of an innocent man who is seriously ill.”
Abdel Aziz came to power in Mauritania, a vast desert country of fewer than 5 million people, in a 2008 coup and was an important ally of Western powers fighting Islamist militants in the Sahel region.
He was replaced by a political ally, current president Mohamed Ould Ghazouani, but quickly found that his government’s actions, including deals on offshore oil projects, came under scrutiny by parliament.
Former prime minister Ismail Ould Cheikh Sidiya and his entire government resigned amid the parliamentary investigation into the allegations last year.