Rival protests outside Morocco trial of 24 Sahrawis

Updated 01 February 2013
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Rival protests outside Morocco trial of 24 Sahrawis

RABAT: Rival protests were held yesterday outside a military tribunal in the Moroccan capital where 24 Sahrawis accused of killing members of the security forces in the Western Sahara in 2010 are in the dock.
The politically charged trial, which is being attended by a number of independent foreign observers, has been repeatedly delayed, with the defendants held in custody for more than two years.
The authorities say 11 people died in the clashes, among them members of the security forces, which broke out as the army moved to dismantle the Gdim Izik camp where thousands of local Sahrawis were living in November 2010.
The Sahrawis arrested during the unrest are accused of violence against the security forces, of pre-meditated killing and of mutilating victims' bodies.
Some 100 people demonstrated outside the court in Rabat yesterday, among them families of the victims, pro-Sahrawi activists and relatives of the accused, many of whom were allowed to attend the trial, an AFP journalist said.
Some relatives of the victims remained outside the tribunal, waving banners that read: "We know who the killers are, so where is justice?"
Ahead of the trial, observers and rights groups expressed concern over allegations the defendants were tortured in custody, about the case being tried by a military court, and about the possible death penalty facing the accused, if convicted.
"Allowing a military court to try civilians raises doubts about the fair, independent and impartial administration of justice," said the Naples-based International Observatory for Human Rights in a statement.
A judicial source, quoted by official media, said the accused were being tried in a military court because they had committed "criminal acts against the military and security forces."
Michael Ellman, a British human rights lawyer familiar with the case, who is attending the trial as an independent observer, said he had seen "many statements" provided by relatives detailing marks of torture on the defendants.
"I have no reason to doubt them," he told AFP, adding: "Most of the suspects haven't been able to see a doctor."
At dawn on Nov. 8, 2010, Moroccan security forces moved to dismantle the Western Sahara camp, near the territory's main city of Laayoune, which thousands of Sahrawis had set up in protest over their living conditions.
The intervention sparked clashes that spread to Laayoune, where businesses and public buildings were looted and torched.
The authorities said 11 people were killed in the unrest, while the Algeria-based Polisario Front separatists said dozens of people lost their lives.
Morocco, whose annexation of the former Spanish colony in 1975 is not recognized by the international community, has proposed broad autonomy for the territory under its sovereignty.


Daesh threatens Iraq polling stations ahead of parliamentary vote

Updated 24 April 2018
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Daesh threatens Iraq polling stations ahead of parliamentary vote

BAGHDAD: Daesh has threatened to attack Iraqi polling stations and voters during parliamentary elections next month.

In a message posted to the Telegram messaging app on Sunday, Daesh spokesman Abu Hassan Al-MuHajjir called on Sunni Iraqis to boycott the May 12 polls, the first since Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi declared victory over Daesh in December.

Extremist groups in Iraq have targeted every election since the 2003 US-led invasion that deposed Saddam Hussein and paved the way for Shiites to dominate every government since.

Under a system of checks and balances designed to avoid a return to dictatorship, the winner of the May 12 elections will have to form alliances with other Shiite, Sunni Arab and Kurdish lists to secure a majority.

An incumbent prime minister, his ousted predecessor and a paramilitary chief instrumental in defeating Daesh are the three favorites vying for Iraq’s premiership.

Two of the favorites topping the lists were among the architects of victory against Daesh, which in 2014 seized a third of Iraq’s territory in a lightning offensive.

The incumbent prime minister, 66 year-old Abadi, took over the reins from Nuri Al-Maliki in September 2014 at the high watermark of the security crisis.

The fightback which allowed Abadi to declare Iraq’s victory over Daesh in December, has silenced critics of his lack of military experience.

An engineering graduate and holder of a doctorate from the University of Manchester in Britain, Abadi is from the same Dawa party as his predecessor Maliki.

As the official head of Iraq’s military, Abadi has bolstered morale by drafting in foreign trainers, who have helped professionalize tens of thousands of soldiers.

Under his watch and backed by a US-led international coalition, the army has banished Daesh from all its urban strongholds in Iraq. 

The Iraqi military has also pushed back the Kurds in the north’s oil-rich Kirkuk province, bolstering Abadi’s status as frontrunner going into the election.

“He has a popular base which transcends confessional and ethnic lines. He offers a narrative as a statesman and he is not tarnished by corruption,” said Iraqi political scientist Essam Al-Fili.

Haddad said: “Abadi remains the single strongest contender but not strong enough to win anything close to a majority.”

His main contender is Hadi Al-Ameri — a leader of Hashed Al-Shaabi, a paramilitary network that played a pivotal role in defeating Daesh.

During Maliki’s 2010-2014 term as premier, Ameri was a lawmaker and then transport minister, but he was blocked in a bid to head the Interior Ministry by an American veto.