Jail term for Sahrawi activist reduced

2013-04-16 12:02

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Rabat - A Moroccan court on Monday cut the jail term of a Sahrawi activist convicted of terrorism, whose confession was allegedly extracted under torture, from 10 to six years on appeal, trial witnesses said.

Mohamed Dihani, 26, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in October 2011 for conspiring to commit acts of terrorism, but the appeals court in Rabat reduced his sentence to six years.

During Monday's trial, Dihani denied the charges against him, and spoke of being detained incommunicado for six months following his arrest in 2010, of being tortured during that time and forced to sign incriminating confessions.

Justice ministry spokesperson Abdullah Ben Zakour declined to comment on the case when contacted by AFP.

Amnesty International condemned the court ruling, saying it was based on evidence that should be excluded under Moroccan law, and accused the authorities of failing to probe allegations of serious human rights abuses.

"We still have someone jailed on the basis of confessions allegedly extracted under torture, which shouldn't carry any weight under Moroccan and international law," Amnesty researcher Sirine Rached told AFP.

"Apart from his confessions, there was no tangible proof or intelligence to support the charges against the accused," she said, calling the trial "extremely problematic".

Dihani disappeared from the Western Sahara city of Laayoune in April 2010, and his family was only informed that he was being held on terrorism-related charges six months later.

During his pre-trial detention, he said the police interrogation focused exclusively on his activities as a pro-independence Sahrawi activist, according to Rached.

The Western Sahara is a highly sensitive subject in Morocco, which annexed the former Spanish colony in 1975 in a move not recognised by the international community.

Polisario Front separatists insist on the right of the Sahrawi people to a referendum on self-determination, demands rejected by Morocco which proposes broad autonomy under its sovereignty for the disputed territory.

A UN special investigator said on a visit last year that the torture of detainees in Morocco and the Western Sahara was "very frequent", and was particularly "cruel and systematic" in cases of national security.

Read more on:    un  |  morocco  |  north africa

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