Trial at 24 of Akdeim Izik-Equipe Media Report | WSHRW
The trial of the Sahrawis imprisoned for political reasons after the attack perpetrated on November 8, 2010 by the Moroccan authorities on the Sahrawi protest camp called “Akdeim Izik” began on February 8 in Rabat before the Moroccan Military Court, after having been postponed twice. All denounced the charges and demonstrated their artificial and invented character for the occasion. Many have claimed to have been systematically tortured and humiliated in the course of interrogations to the point of thinking that they were going to die.
This report tells the global and daily development as well as some peculiarities of the intervention of each political prisoner before the court.
First day: Friday 8
On Friday 8 February , in the presence of a good hundred foreign observers, the Moroccan court martial began in Rabat the trial against the 24 Sahrawi political prisoners of the group of “Akdeim Izik”.
This first day set the general framework of the process, giving the floor to the lawyers.
Some families were able to enter the room; others were blocked at the entrance by the Moroccans. Access to friends of the accused and activists was prohibited. International observers were admitted whether they were invited by the Moroccan authorities or already supported the Sahrawis.
Although the doors opened at 9 a.m., the hearing began at 11 a.m. and ended at 9pm. with a two-hour lunch break.
On this day, the king’s attorney announced that he wanted to hear the testimonies of 9 people.
The defense objected, unless their identities were made public and it was clear that they were not paid agents of the regime. The judge decided to postpone the hearing of these witnesses at the end of the process after having heard the accused, without specifying whether their identity would then be required to be revealed.
A second criticism regarding the form was raised by the defense lawyers regarding the jurisdiction of the military court. Indeed, the Moroccan constitution does not recognize exceptional courts. The court rejected the defense arguments and recognized itself as competent based on article 75 of the Code of Military Justice.
Second day: Saturday 9
On the second day, Saturday February 9 , the court limited the entry of Sahrawis to 45 people. In protest against this discriminatory measure, the families refused to enter without the activists. In the end, only 3 representatives from ASVDH and 5 from CODESA entered. The families and other activists stayed in court expressing their discontent.
5 prisoners were heard: Ennama Asfari, Mohamed Tahlil, Hassan Eddah, Bachir Khadda and Abdallahi Tubali.
The first to be heard was Ennama Asfari, a Sahrawi activist co-president of the French organization CORELSO.
He spoke of the legal framework of the conflict in Western Sahara and explained that he had been arrested on November 7, that is, the day before the attack on the camp and the events of that day.
He also said that he was mistreated and tortured on several occasions.
He added that, as an intellectual, he was perfectly qualified to sign his statement, and complained that he was forced to put his fingerprint on the statement that he refused to sign.
Mohamed Tahlil, Hassan Eddah and Bachir Khadda denied the charges. They reminded the court that they are activists known for their actions demanding the self-determination of Western Sahara.
Mohamed Tahlil spoke in Hassanía and requested the presence of a classical Arabic translator. One person did the translation without guaranteeing that it was a sworn translator. Rather, it would seem that he was a Saharawi integrated into the Moroccan army.
Tahlil claimed that he had never entered Akdeim Izik’s camp and had not participated in its creation either. He was arrested along with two others in a cafe in Laayoune, on December 5, 2010, that is, one month after the dismantling of the camp.
Abdallahi Tubali, a member of the Akdeim Izik camp dialogue committee, explained in turn that the marginalization of the Sahrawis and the plundering of their natural resources were the basis for the creation of Akdeim Izik. He denied the charges and accused the occupation authorities of having kidnapped him. He asked that the testimony of Ms Gajmula Mint Abbi, a parliamentarian who visited him on 7 November 2010, be heard. On that day, that is, the eve of the Moroccan intervention in the camp, he had been seriously injured by the Moroccan police who hit him with the car.
Third day: Sunday 10
Sunday February 10, the court continued and listened to the prisoner Ettaqui Lmachdufi who explained that the Akdeim Izik camp was proof of the rejection of the Sahrawis to the Moroccan occupation. Lamin Haddi, Brahim El Ismaili and El Ayubi Mohamed testified next.
For his part, the political prisoner Mohamed Lamin Haddi was surprised by the accusations against him and denied all the allegations made against him.
“Yes, you can die to stop the injustice against our people,” he said.
At the beginning of his speech, he stressed that his health would not allow him to talk too much.
He introduced himself as an activist for the independence of Western Sahara and claimed that the Moroccan authorities had already begun to harass him for having participated with 71 other people in an international colloquium in Algeria on “the right of peoples to resistance”, which took place in September 2010.
Mr. Haddi stated that, previously, his refusal to sing the Moroccan national anthem or to pronounce “long live the king” earned him further torture by the Moroccan military.
Brahim el Ismaili said that, in 1987, he had already suffered a kidnapping that lasted more than 8 months in a secret jail in Laayoune.
He recalled international legality and the decisions of the United Nations regarding the conflict in Western Sahara.
He added that the crimes committed by Morocco against the Saharawi population have not stopped since 1975, and stressed that the reinforcements of security forces and paramilitaries currently arriving in the cities of Western Sahara predict the intention of the authorities to commit new acts of violence. Mr. Ismaili greeted the Saharawi people for their solidarity with all of them.
The fourth intervention was that of Banga Cheij. This young man began by evoking before the court the substance of the conflict linked to decolonization and the right of his people to self-determination. He cited the statements of the American thinker Noam Chomsky who claimed that the Arab Spring had started in Akdeim Izik.
He recalled being arrested on November 8, 2010 in the Gdaim Izik camp for having brought medicine for his aunt, who was installed in Akdeim Izik. He recalled being transported to the gendarmerie where he suffered moral and physical torture.
He also explained that each city in Western Sahara expresses itself the non-sovereignty of Morocco in the territory. The cars of the United Nations and other foreign organizations prove it with their presence on the streets despite the false propaganda of the colonizing country.
Mr. Ayubi Mohamed, 60, can hardly walk, but he refused the help of the gendarmes, calling them murderers.
He then undressed so that the judges could check the torture marks on his body. He then asked the court how a man suffering from chronic diseases, who has neither a driver’s license nor a car, could run over people. He then explained the reasons that led him to move out of Laayoune with thousands of Sahrawis: the plunder of their natural resources and marginalization, but also the obstacles to the right of self-determination of the Sahrawi people.
Fourth day: Monday 11
On 11 February 2013 , the military court in Rabat continued the hearing to the Saharawi political prisoners and listened to Mohamed Khona Babait, Lkhfauni Abdellah, Abderahman Zayu, Sidi Abdellah Abahah, Mohamed Bachir Boutengiza and Sidi Abdellah Abahah.
The accused Mr. Mohamed Khona Babait entered the room chanting slogans in favor of self-determination and the independence of Western Sahara.
This time, and contrary to what happened the day before, the judge interrupted the accused several times to ask him not to get out of context and to answer questions regarding the charges.
Prisoner Lkhfauni Abdellah denied the charges and accused the Moroccan services of having tortured and humiliated him during pre-trial detention and on the plane.
He explained that he is a former “disappeared”, locked up for the whole of 1994 in a secret center in El Aaiún, and that he was arrested in 1995 for having participated in a demonstration in Bojador.
He added that he was arrested in 1998 when he was trying to reach the Sahrawi refugee camps.
When asked why he prevented the governor of El Aaiún from entering the Akdeim Izik camp, he stated that he had followed the instructions, because he was a participant in the camp and not a leader. He added that he had been arrested with a Spanish journalist (Erena Calvo) at the gendarmerie post near the camp.
The judge interrupted him several times, which led to the defense protest. The judge’s decision to take a 2-hour lunch break shortened Lkhfauni Abdellah’s intervention.
Two other prisoners, El Bakai Laarabi and Lafkir Mohamed M’barek, also denied the allegations and explained the circumstances of their arrest.
Mr. Lafkir claimed to be an activist for the independence of Western Sahara and for that reason never used violence.
He explained how the occupation authorities had built a wall to surround the Akdeim Izik camp, comparing it to the Berlin wall. He denounced the torture and humiliation inflicted on him by the Moroccan police and military. They tore off his beard, toenails, and urinated on him.
El Bakai was arrested on September 9, 2012 in Villa Cisneros when he was working in clandestine transportation. He was recognized as a member of the Akdeim Izik camp dialogue committee and transported to El Aaiún where he was tortured. Later he was imprisoned in Salé with the other prisoners for his political position.
Abderahman Zayu is a civil servant. He claimed to love peace and denounce violence. He is an associative activist and said that his arrest had to do with his statements to the international chain Al Jazeera. He claimed to have been tortured himself and denied all charges. He repeated that the Sahrawi state was the solution.
Mohamed Bachir Butngiza also entered the room shouting political slogans. He began by explaining the history of his political commitment. He recalled being arrested in 1992 and having spent 8 months in a secret prison in El Aaiún.
He was forced to emigrate out of El Aaiún because the police had drawn up a false file accusing him of being linked to drugs. Despite the fact that Western Sahara is a rich country, he illegally emigrated aboard a small boat. He has always been active and has participated in numerous demonstrations against the Moroccan occupation.
He claimed to have been raped with a bottle after his arrest by the policeman Hamid Bahri who accused him of having killed a soldier and urinated on him.
Mr. Butngiza denied the allegations and stated that he was willing to watch the videos and answer all questions. He ended his speech with “the Saharawi state is the solution.”
Sidi Abdellah Abahah for his part greeted the AMDH (Moroccan Human Rights Association), the Vía Democrática political party and all the honorable Moroccans, observers, those in solidarity with the Saharawi cause who have come to witness the process.
According to him, Morocco sent more than 180,000 Moroccans to the cities of Western Sahara and parked them there for decades in the camps around the cities of the Occupied Territories, to falsify the referendum, leaving them without a real possibility of movement or evolution.
He made a parallel between this practice of the Moroccan regime and the accusation against them of having kidnapped citizens who came voluntarily and in greater numbers to protest against the occupation.
Fifth day: Tuesday 12
Tuesday February 12, 2013 , the court heard Ahmed Sbaai, Daich Dafi, Abdeljalil Laarussi¸ Mohamed Bani, Hussein Zaui and Mohamed Burial. Then, XXX Saharawi witnesses and one of the 9 Moroccan witnesses expected.
Ahmed Sbaai had passed out on February 10 and was transported to the prison hospital.
To begin his remarks, he stated that during the interrogation sessions, the instructors had asked him about issues other than the Akdeim Izik incidents, about his actions and political activities.
He suffers from heart disease and claims to have fainted several times during training. A doctor at the hospital ended up asking them to stop torturing him.
According to him, the conditions were so harsh and so painful that, in those days, he thought he was going to die and become a martyr to the cause.
When asked by the judge about his relations with Hassana Aalia, Mr. Sbaai replied that he was a militant colleague like him, and criticized the contradictions of the Moroccan police who, knowing that Mr. Aalia was involved in the Akdeim Izik demonstration, He had been detained and then released after 3 days, allowing him to go to Spain.
Daich Dafi, a member of the dialogue committee, he too entered the courtroom chanting slogans in favor of the self-determination and independence of Western Sahara.
He presented himself as an associative and sports activist.
For him, the violent attack on the camp on November 8 is a betrayal and an exemplification of Moroccan lies. He explains that General Abdelaziz Benani, the chief of staff, had promised them 1,700 civil servant posts, and this before the three governors who represent the Moroccan Minister of the Interior. They had been led to believe that the Saharawi social demands had been understood, when in practice it turned out to be the opposite.
He claimed to have been raped with a sharp object during interrogations. He showed the torture marks on his face. This violence has not made a dent in his determination and he began to repeat the political slogans.
Abdeljalil Laarussi, head of security at the camp, also reported being raped with a sharp object during questioning. He explained the purpose of the camp and why the Sahrawi inhabitants decided to move there. He said that the two reasons were the demand for respect for the self-determination of his people and the opposition to the looting of the natural resources of his territory.
The judge’s questions focused on his real responsibility as head of the camp’s security, on his relations with the Polisario. He asked if his boss was Bulsan.
Mohamed Bani said that he was born in 1969. He fled with the Saharawi people into exile from the refugee camps in the Southwest of Algeria in 1975. He studied at the school on June 9 (date of the death of the martyr El Wali, founder of the Polisario Front) . He joined the Sahrawi Liberation Army, which taught him strong moral values, and could not, therefore, have killed anyone, contrary to what he is accused of.
He was working, when the events took place, in the Moroccan Ministry of Equipment and ensures that he has never been absent from work.
A certificate signed by your regional director confirms that you were at your workplace until November 5. The attorney general objected to this argument, calling it unimportant.
Hussein Zaui, began his speech by greeting the AMDH and all those in solidarity with the cause of the Sahrawis. He added that he was a member of the dialogue committee and that he had therefore participated in negotiations with the Moroccan authorities represented by senior officials.
The interior minister and three governors attended these negotiations, which were led by the so-called Ilias El Omar, the latter presenting himself as a delegate of the supreme organs (that is, the king and his friends).
Mr. Zaui stated that he had been the target of attempted corruption, but that he had rejected all proposals. He added that he suffered rape and torture to such an extent that he had to be transported several times to the hospital. He ended his testimony chanting slogans for the self-determination of the Saharawi people.
Mohamed Burial, also a member of the dialogue committee in Akdeim Izik camp, spoke last for the group of prisoners. He asked the court why an investigation had not been carried out into the murder of the young Ennajem Lgarhi, this young Saharawi who was killed by the Moroccan army. He also confirmed that Ilias El Omar was present as a representative of the palace in the dialogue and negotiation sessions, and was assisted by the Moroccan Minister of the Interior, thus demonstrating the duplicity of the Moroccan State’s word.
He denied all the charges and chanted slogans in favor of self-determination.