11 February 2013

Western Sahara: Trial of Gdeim Izik Prisoners - Hearings Continue, Defendants Reject Charges

Rabat — The trial of the 24 Sahrawi political prisoners, also known as "Group of Gdeim Izik" continues before Rabat military court with the hearing of the defendants, including five of them who were heard Saturday, according to judicial sources.

The five accused persons rejected all the charges against them, affirming that the Moroccan State was responsible of these events which occurred on November 8, 2010, after the Moroccan forces gave their raid against the refugee camp of Gdeim Izik, near occupied el-Ayoun, in Western Sahara.

During the hearing, one of the 24 defendants, namely Ahmed Sbaai who suffers, according to his family, from heart problems and fainting, had felt unwell before being transported to hospital. Doctors prescribed him a 48 hour rest, according to the observers who attended the trial.

The Sahrawi political prisoners, in prison since over 27 months, are particularly accused of "undermining the country's internal and exterior security, forming a criminal group and offending law enforcement officials in the performance of their duty."

In their answers, the defendants reaffirmed they are peaceful political activists, defenders of human rights and consequently consider their trial before a military court as a "political trial."

"We are not criminals but political prisoners and we consider our appearance before this military court as a political trial," Ennaama Asfari, the first defendant to be heard, stated. He added that the refugee camp of Gdeim Izik was "a battle of peaceful protests" and a "form of symbolic political protest through which we demanded the Sahrawi rights."

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