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Morocco opens retrial of 25 Sahrawis accused of murdering 13

Moroccan people stage a protest demanding the release of their relatives during a demonstration against the killing of security forces in the Western Sahara in 2010, outside the building of the court of second trial of Sahrawis called Gdeim Izik group in Sale, Morocco on January 23 2017 [Jalal Morchidi - Anadolu Agency]
Moroccan people stage a protest demanding the release of their relatives during a demonstration against the killing of security forces in the Western Sahara in 2010, outside the building of the court of second trial of Sahrawis called Gdeim Izik group in Sale, Morocco on January 23 2017 [Jalal Morchidi - Anadolu Agency]

A Moroccan court yesterday resumed the trial of 25 Sahrawis accused of murdering 13 people in November 2010.

The majority of those killed were security forces based in the contested Western Sahara’s Gdeim Izik camp. They were killed when they were ordered to clear the camp following a riot near the city of Laayoune.

Protesters for and against the defendants gathered outside the court of appeal in Sale, near the capital Rabat, where they were separated by a line of police.

Read: Morocco, the Western Sahara and democracy

“No to impunity for killers!” the victims’ relatives shouted whilst waving Moroccan flags and brandishing pictures of those killed.

Meanwhile Sahrawi activists retorted with slogans including “Freedom for political prisoners!”

The hearing was broadcasted on a large screen for the benefit of the lawyers, victims’ relatives and reporters.

In 2013, a military court sentenced all of the defendants, with the harshest sentence ranging from 20 years to life imprisonment.

International observers and NGOs at the time slammed the trial as “unfair”, forcing the court to order a retrial in a civilian court.

However, defence lawyers expressed their scepticism that a new trial would be more fair.

[The trial] is taking place in very unfair conditions, but we remain at the defendants’ side

President of an association for families and friends of the victims, Ahmed Atertour, however explained he had “confidence in Moroccan justice to commemorate the memory of our… martyrs.”

A former Spanish colony, the Western Sahara is viewed by Morocco as an integral part of its kingdom. The Polisario Front has demanded a referendum on self-determination for the territory on behalf of the Sahrawi people.

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