18 February 2013

Western Sahara: Trial of 24 Saharawi Political Prisoners 'Does Not Meet International Standards' - Amnesty International

London — Amnesty International's Director for the Middle East and North Africa Phillip Luther said Sunday that the trial of the 24 Saharawi activists in Moroccan martial court "does not meet the internationally recognized standards of a fair trial."

"The trying of the Sahrawi activists before a martial court does not meet the internationally recognized standards of a fair trial. The 24 accused must be brought to a civil court with providing the necessary guarantees on human rights, they should not, in any case, be sentenced to death," said Mr. Luther, in a statement.

"The Saharawi political prisoners are arbitrarily accused of endangering the internal security of the state, forming a criminal group and attacking public officials during the performance of their regular duties," he added.

He also confirmed that all international observers and representatives of humanitarian organizations, who were present at the trial, unanimously expressed the same view; "weakness of the arguments in this case."

Amnesty International said in this regard that the trial of the Sahrawi civilians was "null and void from the outset."

The defendants have consistently said that they were subjected to torture, including sexual violence, to make a confession.

"Obviously, the president of the Court has refused to investigate these allegations. Defense lawyers have also confirmed the absence of the prisoners' fingerprints on the edged weapons and the lack of DNA evidence," asserted the statement.

"Moroccan authorities must know that their constant violations of human rights against the Saharawis in the occupied territories must stop, because it can no longer be tolerated," it added.

Moroccan military court of Rabat sentenced Saturday night to Sunday eight of the 24 Saharawi political prisoners, known as Gdeim Izik group, to life imprisonment and one to life in prison in absentia, four to 30-year prison term, eight to 25-year and three to 20-year jail term. It released 2 of them after they sentenced to two-year in prison, but they have already served their terms in custody.

The group was arrested following Moroccan military attack on Gdeim Izik protest camp, near the capital El Aaiun, on 8 November 2010.

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