Morocco: Sahrawi Activists Set to Be Tried on Friday

Press Release
October 14, 2010

Morocco: Sahrawi Activists Set to Be Tried on Friday

Amnesty International Press Release
For Immediate Release
Thursday, October 14, 2010

Amnesty International Calls on Morocco to Release Sahrawi
Activists Set to Be Tried on Friday


Contact: Suzanne Trimel, 212-633-4150, strimel@aiusa.org

(Washington, D.C.) -- Amnesty International today is calling on the Moroccan authorities to immediately and unconditionally release three Sahrawi activists set to face trial Friday for visiting refugee camps in Algeria run by the Polisario Front.

“It is simply unacceptable that the Moroccan authorities are prosecuting these seven individuals, who include human rights defenders and former victims of enforced disappearance, for freely and openly visiting refugee camps and meeting with Polisario Front officials,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa.

Brahim Dahane, Ali Salem Tamek and Ahmed Nasiri, are to be tried in the Court of First Instance in Casablanca.  All have been accused of “undermining (Morocco’s) internal security.” Amnesty International considers the three men to be prisoners of conscience.

Yahdih Ettarouzi, Saleh Labihi, Dakja Lashgar, and Rachid Sghir who were provisionally released, are also on trial for the same charges.

“Brahim Dahane, Ali Salem Tamek and Ahmed Nasiri have been incarcerated for over a year for actions that amount to no more than peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression and association," said Smart. "The charges against them are clearly politically-motivated and they should be dropped immediately. These prosecutions should not proceed.”

“The Moroccan authorities should not treat peaceful political expression as a national security issue, as they are doing in this case.” said Smart. “Instead, the Moroccan authorities must live up to their human rights obligations and demonstrate their commitment to the rule of law by upholding the right to freedom of expression and association for all those peacefully supporting the self-determination of Western Sahara.”

Initially charged with “undermining (Morocco’s) external security”, and its “territorial integrity,” the case was under investigation by Morocco’s Military Court for nearly 12 months before being passed to civilian courts.

The three men being held have been confined at Salé Prison, near Rabat, since October 16, 2009. They were arrested in Casablanca following their return from refugee camps in Tindouf, Algeria.

Brahim Dahane, Ali Salem Tamek and Ahmed Nasiri are among a number of Sahrawi activists who have faced harassment and intimidation for publicly expressing their views on the self-determination of Western Sahara, which Morocco annexed in 1975, and for documenting human rights violations committed by the Moroccan authorities.

Brahim Dahane said in a statement received via his family: “For a quarter of a century, we have been victims of arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearance and harassment as a result of our views, expressed peacefully."

The Polisario Front calls for the independence of Western Sahara and runs a self-declared government in exile, the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR).

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 2.8 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

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