Morocco sentences 23 to prison over W Sahara killings

2017-07-19 16:40
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Rabat - A Moroccan court on Wednesday sentenced 23 Sahrawis to prison terms ranging from two years to life over the killing of 11 members of the Moroccan security forces in contested Western Sahara.

The verdict in the case, which has been closely followed by human rights campaigners, was delivered at dawn by the Court of Appeals in Sale near Rabat, the official news agency MAP reported.

Morocco and the Algeria-backed Polisario Front independence movement have accused each other of provoking the deadly clashes between police and Sahrawi protesters at a camp for displaced people in Gdeim Izik in November 2010.

In 2013 a military court sentenced the defendants to jail terms ranging from 20 years to life imprisonment.

International rights groups condemned that trial as "unfair" and in July the Court of Cassation ordered a civilian court to examine the case.

Morocco says Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony mostly controlled by Rabat, is an integral part of the kingdom.

The Polisario Front demands a referendum on self-determination for the territory.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch this week issued a joint plea for the Moroccan authorities to ensure the verdict in the trial was not based on confessions or statements "obtained under torture or other ill-treatment during police interrogations".

The NGO Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture has criticised what it called an "unfair trial" that took into account "confessions signed under torture".

In May the defendants and their lawyers announced they would no longer attend the trial, alleging "irregularities".

The Moroccan authorities have sought to underline what they called the "transparency" and "fairness" of the civil trial, which was open to the press and international observers.

Read more on:    polisario front  |  morocco  |  north africa

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