In February 2008, the Moroccan authorities arrested 35 people and announced that a terrorist network led by Abdelkader Belliraj had been dismantled. Following the operation, other arrests took place in different European countries.
In Belgium, eleven people were arrested under an international arrestwarrant following a demand for their extradition from Morocco. The 2008 Annual Report of the Belgian Security Services stated: ' In Belgium, on 27 November 2008, twelve searches have been made and eleven people placed under investigation in the framework of a criminal investigation by the federal public prosecutor against X for their participation on Belgian territory in activities and terrorist movements surrounding Belliraj.'
In Spain also, under the same international arrest warrants and Moroccanextradition requests, arrests took place. On the 1st April 2008, the Belgian Moroccan and resident of Brussels, Ali Aaarass and the Spanish national Mohamed el Bay were arrested in Melilla, the Spanish enclave in Morocco. The newspaper Liberation (25 April 2008) described thereasons for their arrest: 'The two individuals are accused of sending weapons from Belgium into Moroccan territory. One of them of possible involvement in the events of Casablanca on 16 May 2003.' The Spanish section of Amnesty International(AI) wrote on their arrests: 'Ali Aarrass and Mohamed el Bay are wanted in Morocco in connection with terrorism and are also accused of being part of a terrorist network directed by the Belgian Moroccan foreign national Abdelkader Belliraj’.(AI statement 21 avril 2009).
In the months that followed the arrests in Belgium and Spain, several court ruled on the extradition request against those arrested. The Appeal Court in Brussels pronounced against the extradition request, declaring that the request on the part of Morocco was clearly made for ‘political reasons’. The Belgium security services added: ' None of the detainees will definitely be extradited, as the elements communicated by the Moroccan authorities were not judged to be relevant.'(Annual Report 2008).
In Spain, the same process took another turn.The Spanish justice system and the investigating judge Baltasar Garzon first of all established that there was NO foundation for the accusations against Ali Aarass. Amnesty International wrote: 'Ali Aarrass was the object of judicial investigation by the Audiencia Nacional (High Court in Spain with national competence) in 2006 for offences linked to terrorism but, on 16 March 2009, the official investigations were provisionally closed on the grounds of lack of evidence’ (AI statement 21 April 2009). Next, a thunderbolt! In spite of the fact that Ali Aarrass was cleared, the Spanish court accepted the Moroccan extradition request. While he awaits his extradition, he will remain in a Spanish prison. Following this judgement, Ali Aarrass started a two-month hunger strike, claiming his innocence, protesting against his conditions of detention and opposing his extradition to Morocco. 'The decision to send Ali Aarass to Moroco is a contradiction’ said his lawyer Nayim at a pressconference on 25 March 2009, ‘It violates the legal principle that you cannot judge aperson two times for the same offence. How can it be that one can extradite an individual who had already been cleared in Spain? My client must be freed.' Quickly, a large solidarity movement has grown to oppose the extradition. AI (Spain) has issued the following appeal, demanding that 'the authorities do not hand over either Ali Aarrass or Mohammed el Bay to Morocco, owing to the risk that they will be held in secret detention, subjected to torture and other cruel and degrading treatment as well as becoming subject of an unjust process.' The president of Melilla, Juan Jose Imbroda, the local government ledby the PP, the Coalition of Melilla (CPM) the most important oppositionparty, the Islamic Commission of Melilla and the association 'Inter-Culture'… all united and opposed to this extradition. Abderraman Benyaha, the spokesperson for the Islamic Commission declared that the Spanish authorities would never accept this extradition 'if the accused was not a Muslim'. In Belgium also, hundreds of people have mobilised against the extradition, participated in a demonstration in the centre of Brussels, or signed petitions to Spanish and Belgium ministers demanding the liberation of Ali Aarrass.
Torture in Morocco: the damning evidence
For independent observers and for the Human Rights organisations, the anti-terrorist campaigns of the last decade have undermined the democratic reforms in which Morocco was engaged. Some say that 'the years of lead', have returned, the darkest years of the regime of Hassan II.
According to Mustafa Soulaih, a member of the Arab Commission of Human Rights, : " ...the Kingdom of Morocco continues to remain at the top of the list of countries in which corruption, suppression of freedom of expression and opinion spread and where the judiciary is not independent and where official state officers are not being held account and with the unimplemented legal obligations from the human rights standards of respect, protection and fulfilment, especially in the field of social, economic, cultural and environmental development rights. Despite all that Morocco, after nearly a decade, is the only country which still adopting the so-called Anti-Terrorism law and uses it in the prosecution of individuals, groups and other opponents as hostages subject to theoretical guardianship, investigation, detention pending investigation, imprisonment, or other forms of monitoring and spying and this could take as long as political, financial decision makers and their international allies decide.” (Report of Judicial Observatory in the trial of The six political detainees" in Morocco – September 10, 2009)
Torture after the Casabalanca bomb-attacks
According to Amnesty International, after the 2003 Casablanca bomb attacks' nearly 1500 individuals were arrested, hundreds of them were severely tortured, but their complaints were not taken seriously by the Moroccan authorities…’ (Document - España. Temor de devolución/temor de tortura. Ali Aarras, Mohamed el Bay.)
Torture in the Belliraj case
The Belliraj case currently underway in Morocco has confirmed word for word the fears as stated by Amnesty International in April 2009.According to Violette Daguerre of the Arab Commission of Human Rights : 'In spite of sitting successively for one year and a half, the court has not proved any of the accusations against these prisoners, one of whom is M Abdelkader Belliraj.... and certain of the prisoners were placed under investigation, simply for having known him.... They have all insisted infront of the court, that they have suffered violent interrogation and that confessions were obtained under torture carried out at the secret detentioncentre of the political police - Temara...' .” (Report of Judicial Observatory in the trial of The six political detainees" in Morocco – September 10, 2009).
Of the treatment that he has been subjected to, Abdelkader Belliraj wrote in a letter of 8 February 2010: 'Concerning the use of torture in my case, I emphasise the following: hanging by the feet, head down, hanging with feet down, all taking place completely naked or sometimes in just underpants; flogged all over the body with a whip or spiked stick. Lay the victim on the stomach and inflict blows all over, with the whip and the stick not to mention kicking. Then follows the same operation, but lying on your back with electric shocks being administered.This took place for one month and a half, the eyes blindfolded and the hands tied. The interrogation reports are drawn up by the Secret Service in French, the role of the Judicial Police is to translate them from French into Arabic and put before the examining judge. And to come full circle, they present the documents endorsed by their service, and underneath, the signatures of the victims of their violence. All this takes place in the gulag, for this country hides its gulags. There isn’t a security service in this country, there are hunters, and receivers of dossiers.’
Even the Belgian security services subscribes to the view of this trial as one that has not been based on facts: 'Although they have got wind of certain connections between individuals, (Belgian) State Security has never possessed the elements that attest to their common implication in terrorist activities; nor do these connections enable us to establish a link between any member of the network and the six Belgian murders of which the network is accused. The elements advanced by the Moroccans do not prove in an indisputable way the existence of a network and the implication of that network in the six murders in Belgium.' (Annual Report 2008)
Torture of terrorist suspects on the road to Guantanamo
Since September 11 2001, Morocco, with other countries, has become part of a network of secret detention centres put in place by the United States. Undoubtably, Morocco has served as a centre of torture for the US and for Great Britain, for their terror suspects on the road to Guantanamo. In his latest book, 'The rules of the game', Asim Qureshi, legal expert at Cage Prisoners writes: 'Thousands of suspected terrorists have been detained over the last seven years, many of whom have been sent to countries such as Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Morocco plus other unknown destinations outside US control. This has now become the most worrying aspect of the global network of detentions.' (pg 141).
The names of Binyam Mohammed Al Habashi (British national), Abou Elkassim Britel (Italian national), Farid Hilai (Moroccan, British resident) …. are so many witnesses to the '"outsourcing" or "sub-contracting" of torture' from the western countries to Morocco.
Belgium must intervene to protect its national
Before the court, Ali Aarrass invoked his Belgium nationality to oppose his extradition, but the court rejected his argument. To this day, Belgium has done nothing either to protect its national from the threat of extradition to a country that practices torture, or to monitor the conditions of his detention. Ali Aarrass has spent 28 years in Belgium, where he did his military service. In Brussels, he was well-known and respected. Yacob Mahi, a member of the Theologians' Council of the Belgium Muslim Executive said of him, 'I knew him as the bookseller in the Chaussee de Gand. He was a very calm, very pleasant young man. He sold Islamic books, but not texts committed to terrorist acts.....'
Belgium violates the European Convention on Human Rights if it does not intervene
In the plenary session of the senate on 4 March 2010, Senator Hugo Vandenberghe (CD&V), and professor of law at the University KUL, opposed the transfer of Belgian files to Morocco in the context of the Belliraj case. 'If the Belgian State transfers these dossiers to a state where there is no guarantee that a trial can take place in a fair and impartial manner, it is complicit in a violation of Article 6 of the European Convention which safeguards human rights and fundamental liberties. This position has its origin in the Soering case and the debate relating to extradition to states which still practice the death penalty. The case law has evolved since that time.'
Very true, but if it is true for dossiers and papers, isn't it even more true for human beings? How come the European countries don’t apply their own Convention which prohibits extradition 'if there exists a real risk that a person will be submitted to inhuman or degrading treatment'?
We demand that Belgium intervene with the Spanish government
The final decision on the extradition of Ali Aarrass is in the hands of the Spanish Council of Ministers. Our justice minister can easily address his Spanish colleague. Besides, Belgium will assume the Presidency of the EU from 1 July to 31 December 2010.
We call for a parliamentary initiative for the defence of Ali Aarrass
We call on Belgium parliamentarians to take an initiative on behalf of Ali Aarrass, to visit him and demand his liberation, following thereby the example of the 62 parliamentarians and the 12 Italian euro-deputies who took up the defence of Abu Elkassim Britel, the 'Italian Ali Aarrass' detained by Morocco.
Recognised as Innocent but two years in prison, it's enough!
Ali Aarrass must be freed!
Source: Le Grand Soir