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Morocco upholds jail terms for Sahrawis over 2010 killings

Jail PHOTO:Shutterstock

A Moroccan appeals court has upheld jail sentences ranging up to life for 23 Sahrawis over the killings of security personnel a decade ago, a defence lawyer said.

Morocco and the rebel Polisario Front, which seeks independence for the disputed Western Sahara territory, have accused each other of provoking deadly clashes between police and Sahrawi protesters at a camp for displaced people in Gdeim Izik in November 2010.

“The Court of Cassation on Wednesday dismissed all the appeals” of the 23 defendants, Mohamed Fadel Leili told AFP. “This is the final decision.”

The appeals court’s decision comes amid heightened tensions in the territory, where the two sides have traded regular fire since a three-decade UN-backed ceasefire broke down earlier this month.

The 23 defendants were found guilty in 2013 by a military court which sentenced them to jail terms ranging from 20 years to life.

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

Four of the defendants have completed their sentences while the other 19 remain in detention, the lawyer said.

The killings took place on November 8, 2010 as Moroccan forces moved to dismantle the Gdeim Izik camp, south of the city of Laayoune, where thousands of Sahrawis were living.

Eleven security personnel and two Sahrawi civilians were killed in the clashes that followed, which spread to Laayoune, where businesses and public buildings were looted and torched.

According to videos released by security forces, some of those killed had their throats cut, and some of their bodies were desecrated.

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