The Saharawi political prisoner Mohamed Dihani’s testimony

May 14th, 2013 | By | Category: rights, Civil and political rights
Mohamed Daihani

Mohamed Dihani

“Here with you the Saharawi political prisoner Mohamed Dihani from Salé 2 prison.

First of all, this letter was meant to be a letter that I would like to send out written and signed (my own personal mark). But since there is a camera, I preferred to record a video tape which can be easier sent out.

Behind the walls of Salé 2 prison, I wrote these words in my dark cell in a cold winter evening.

I talk about my story as a witness and against the Moroccan regime.This is the story of a Saharawi activist who refused to surrender to the occupier.   

As a consequence, I was abducted and imprisoned and became an actor of a conspiracy against me. From the series of ongoing violations committed against the Saharawi people, I will disclose in this letter certain missing facts as well as the Machiavellian plans of the occupying State.

No one can imagine what the Moroccan regimes does in the shadow and how it leads the basis of the Western Sahara conflict to justify the continued oppression inflicted on the Saharawi people.

I am writing this letter being completely aware of the consequences that may result to me, but I must stress that the Saharawi people’s future is much more important than mine. This conspiracy began on the day Aminatu Haidar arrived.

That day we, the Saharawi people, consider a victory, an illumination on the path of pride and the beginning of a new and irreversible progress in the Saharawi people’s struggle.   

On that day, when Aminatu Haidar arrived coming from the Lanzarote airport after the famous hunger strike she had initiated there which has lasted for more than 33 days.

She rubbed noses with the invaders and occupiers who eventually accepted her conditions after having previously deported her because she had refused to yield to their blackmail to abandon the principles of the Saharawi people by giving up the struggle and the activism.   

In the evening of this historic day, I stepped forward to answer our nation’s call like all our young activists and welcome this courageous activist.  

However, just a few minutes after I got out with my friend H.A., we have been surprised by a patrol of the occupying forces. They surrounded us and they have taken and tortured us in a brutal manner that reflected their latent hatred toward the Saharawi people.

Three hours later, they damped us outside the city in order to prevent us from attending the reception. When we were trying to return to the city, we encountered a car by chance that drove us to Bel El Mehdi Hospital; we were barefoot and almost naked. My friend had a broken hand.

We were led to the emergency room, the marks were evident and we were surprised to see Europeans present there, over 14 people including jurists and journalists. The driver of the car that had taken us asked me to explain to them what had happened; I should find a language to speak with them.  

I asked if anyone spoke Italian and a woman answered that she was Italian and a Spaniard journalist said she could also speak Italian.  

I started to explain what had happened to us that evening, the brutality we were subjected to, the torture and I also referred the hundreds of Saharans who had been attacked. I explained the Saharawi national cause before dozens of police officers, intelligence service agents and other people present. Some among them threatened me by saying to me: the bag time still stands.  

I knew some of them and their addresses in the capital.  

The magic turned against the magician. Instead of preventing me from attending the reception, their attitudes enabled me to speak with foreign journalists about what I had just been subjected to, my abduction and the torture. Intelligence service agents in civilian clothes tried again to attract me in order to take me away in front of the people present in the hospital.

My Saharawi brothers intervened and surrounded them to prevent them from taking action. A Saharawi woman has even left her sick child in the waiting room to grab my hand firmly so that they would not arrest me.  

I still remember that moment.

This example is just one of many on the part of a Saharawi woman in this time of struggle and sacrifice; without them, all Saharawi women, Aminatu Haidar and other activist women, this time would be wasted and it would not move on.

Afterwards, I asked the human rights activists to go with me to my house; they accepted and I thanked them. So this was the beginning of my confrontation with the occupying regime.

It was a non official detention centre, a garage.

From my knowledge of the way and my experience as a driver, I felt that the garage could be located on the Mecque Boulevard, everyone knows it. I spent 2 hours being interrogated in general about my identity and my family, my relationship with certain well known human rights activists and my participation in demonstrations against the Moroccan occupation.

After that, a 4×4 car arrived and took me to an unknown place; I found out later that it was the terrible centre of Temara.  It was a very long trip and we only stopped at fuel stations.  

So the trip started at 1:00 a.m. and went on until next day in the evening. I could hear their communications with their leaders to ask for permission to take me from one place to another.

Here a new period began.

There is no room for discussing people’s human rights and their dignity. Directly and without reason, they began to beat me up, to undress me and blindfold me in order not to identify the place.

My mental health deteriorated because I did not know why I was being subjected to torture without reason.  

Questions started.

The first one was: “why are you here?” I answered: “I don’t know”. The torture increased.

Then the second question:

Are you a Moroccan?

Now I found myself in a very awkward position. I had been subjected to torture without reason, so how would it be with this question?

I should wait and prepare for another torture session.  

I decided not to answer.

The investigator beat my hand with something causing a wound that still makes me suffer after two years.

He then asked me another question, namely if I knew Mr Omar Bulsan.

I answered “no, that’s the first time I hear that name”

Of course, I was subjected to another torture session.

I was also asked about certain well known Saharawi activists and about others I did not know. Brahim Dahane, Ali Salem Tamek, Aminatu Haidar, Taruzi and others.

A few hours elapsed with intermittent trivial questions. Accusatory questions were made asserting my presence in precise situations without apparent evidence.  

They walked me out of the interrogation room just for a few minutes for dinner and took me back to the room always blindfolded not to be able to recognize the people present there.

They began to interrogate me again about my commercial activity as a car dealer to Mauritania and they presented me some names of car dealers.  At a rapid pace, ordinary questions have been made alternating with torture sessions for three dark days, until there was a shift change of investigators, who told me they did not know the other investigators and therefore they would start over again.

They restarted with ordinary questions and then came the torture and the ill-treatments, degrading human dignity, without even letting me lie down; I have spent hours sitting on a chair in a cold room controlled by cameras.

I once fell asleep and they came in to terrify me until I lost my psychological balance. They started questioning me again and they beat me.

They subsequently took me to an office where each of them blindfolded me with different bandages and resumed the questioning. One of them has even asked me to call him «my friend». For a moment I had a transparent bandage, so I could see the investigators’ faces; I was sitting and one of them said: Show respect, you are with the chief of the Southern zone. I saw him personally; it was General Abbdelaziz Bennani, an investigator of the Southern zone.

He asked me in Hassania dialect:  where do you come from, what tribe do you belong to?

I answered him that I was a separatist, although I am not one, that I was only a pro-independence person demanding independence of this occupied country. I made a mistake in relation to the seriousness of the situation.

General Benani started laughing and said:

The authorities allow the separatists to express their opinions and they also give them special maps.

I told him that if Morocco had accepted a cease-fire for a referendum, that should give the right to be Saharan or Moroccan.

They gave me the opportunity to express myself, but to no avail because the dialogue directly took a different turn and the questioning restarted.

Where did I hide the weapons that I purchased via the Polisario Front at the Southern borders, where a plane was waiting for me to bring me in and nobody would touch me?

I totally denied these strange and astonishing accusations.  

They took me again to the investigation office to start tormenting me again. They threatened me of bringing my mother and my brother to rape them.

I heard my mother and my brother screaming in the cell next door. My mother said: come to my house, my son. I was crazy; I later learned through experienced people that these are only records of telephone conversations. The days elapsed like this, 10 days; then, on the 11th day I was informed that I was going to meet very important people. For the first time I entered an office without being blindfolded and I could see the faces of all investigators.   

I was able to recognize the person who made me sign the record at the El Ma’arif police station (in Casablanca) and others headed by Abdelatif El Hamouchi, head of the DST (the National Surveillance Directorate).   

In the centre of the room there were blank documents on a table, passports, pens, laptops and pistols. They appeared enthusiastic, they were kind to me, they promised to treat me well.

They said that all that had just happened was a misunderstanding, they were convinced that I had done nothing, they presented to me names of people who I do not know, saying that they are terrorists coming from Italy and Europe and they represent a threat to the security of the country. They asked me to cooperate with them in order to arrest them because I live in Italy and I speak Italian well.  At first, I thought I should accept in order to save my life.  

One officer gave me a lot of ideas and he presented to me quickly and without detail the targets to be reached in Western Sahara. They were Moroccan security centres, prominent Saharawis cooperating with Morocco, MINURSO’s headquarters in El Aaiún and some hotels.  

At my astonishment, why should institutions be destroyed and the loyalists killed?

They told me to calm down, that it was in favour of the Homeland, that it was useful for Morocco’s agenda and that I was not alone. Many people were ready to work with me in this terrorist group.

The carrot: they promised me to improve my situation, to protect my family and if my family should need something, they would always be there.  

But also the stick: the investigators’ leader told me that here, the one who comes in disappears and the one who goes out is born again. This expression is also written in my cell and I saw it every morning and every evening.

He added: one or two persons died at my home in this detention centre, that’s not a problem.

I was disturbed and I told him that this file was very extensive, so I asked for a day of reflection before accepting or not.

They installed me in a clean room and they enabled me to have good meals and cigarettes at discretion. I could only have three cigarettes per day before; the first one after breakfast, the second one after lunch and the third one after dinner.

After two days interruption of the interrogation sessions, I was able to relax physically and morally from torture. However, I thought about this proposal. I found myself in a deadlock with them because they would attempt to achieve their aims by all means.   

Clearly to surmount this impasse and save my life, I agreed to work with them in Italy earning a salary. But as far as Western Sahara was concerned, I said: I cannot do that because of my tribal affiliation and my region, but also because my ideas do not match with acts of terrorism. I do not want to get my family engaged in problems.    

The investigator said he would communicate my message. They took me then into a dark, dirty cell full of insects and, in addition, in front of the torture room.

I heard people crying and screaming all the time. I could no longer keep calm and, of course, the bad meals were back. The investigators came back too and started again with physical and moral torture. I have been suspended for several hours while they hit my joints and very sensitive parts of the body.   

All this lasted 27 days continuously. You can imagine the suffering of the prisoners isolated from the outside world in these secret prisons and the concern of the families that know nothing about the condition of the prisoners or about their places of detention. I spent 6 months in secret detention as of April 24, 2010 until October 28, 2010.   

I have never recovered from the torture effects. In the cell in front of mine I’ve seen men, women but also children, I swear to you that there are children, minors, being tortured.   During this particular time, they have transferred a group of about forty people from the North, four of whom were Spaniards. They tortured them in the cell in front of me. I met those same people in Salé 2 prison, I recognized them.

I could also recognize a woman prisoner who was gang raped. She is a friend or the wife of a Spanish prisoner, Miguel, who has been tortured for three days. He was near me and he was on hunger strike. I am not even talking about his other friends, Tony, Cicilio and a third one whose name I forgot.

I can confirm the frequent gang rapes because I could hear her screams and supplications without being able to act.

This woman was sentenced to two years in prison because she was a friend of one of the members of the group that I have met when I was abducted 6 months before, which I have already mentioned. I was transferred to El Ma’Arif on Friday, 22 October 2010, 10 days before the Akdeim Izik incidents.

I have not seen any interrogator or responsible except on the last day when I was tortured again to sign a record, the contents of which I do not know. After that they said that I would appear before the Crown Prosecutor, but I have seen neither a prosecutor man nor a prosecutor woman.   

I was taken to the office of the investigating judge of the Court of Appeal, called Abdelkader Chantouf.

But when I entered the judge’s office, he asked me some serious and strange questions.

“You want to blow up such and such?” “You want to murder such and such?” as if I were a member of an American group of marines, although I was absolutely convinced that the marines could not carry out such terrorist acts.    

He continued accusing me “you want to explode railway stations, ferries and ships?”

I was totally shocked because in the preceding questionings I had only been questioned about Western Sahara, former Saharawi political prisoners, human rights activists, the Polisario Front, Mauritania, the people I usually see or meet with, but now he was talking about very strange charges.  

I did not forget to tell him that I had been tortured; he answered that I had not been abducted by Moroccans or by the DST, but by the Italian intelligence service; my lawyer was present and, of course, I immediately denied all those charges.

The judge did not want to consider my accusations concerning abduction and torture and decided to send me to the Salé prison, the so-called ZAKI.

I spent 7 months there. In particular, after the release of the Saharawi activist Brahim Dahane, four officers came to me and interrogated me about my relationship with Dahane, Ali Salem Tamek Ahmed Nassiri.

They asked me to provide them with information on the Salafist prisoners, their plans and above all information on the leaders of that group. I refused like I did last time. They told me that I could get out if I should speak, otherwise the verdict would be very severe to me. The verdict was severe, an unjustified 10-year prison sentence.  

After a few days of clashes in Zaki prison, they took me to Salé2 prison where I was tortured again and harder, to the point where I hardly remembered what I had suffered in the secret centre of Temara. In Salé 2, my torturers have been the director Mustaphe Hajli, Mohamed A’adimi Younes Bouazizi, Idriss Moulat, Idriss Abouhachem, Majid, Boubkri and others.

After succeeding in making public outside the prison the blackmail of the Moroccan intelligence, which I was subjected to both in Temara centre and in Salé, this topic has been the subject of international conferences and meetings such as the Geneva conference on human rights and so my case has taken a new dimension.

I did not forget that two intelligence officers came to my cell and that one of them was present when I was interrogated in Temara; he was also present in El Ma’Arif and at the time they forced me to sign the record.

Both requested me to record a videotape in order to deny what was being said by human rights organizations and newspapers, as well as everything my father had stated about what I was going through in here.

I totally refused.

They threatened me to send me back to Temara. I answered that the delegation of penitentiary authorities was responsible for all that and for my situation.

After that, I ignore a lot of things, incidents and difficult situations because the conditions in the prisons are still terrible; permanent harassment and systematic inspections, so that the truth cannot get out from here.

I address to the United Nations and all human rights organizations an urgent appeal to intervene for me, a Saharawi citizen and activist, but also as a political prisoner. An investigation on all inhuman blackmails and oppressions must be undertaken.

Thank you very much.”

Source: EM-WSHRW

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