Sahara Press Service (El Aaiun)

Western Sahara: President of Republic Urges Liberal International to Intervene to Seek the Reversal Arbitrary Verdicts Against 25 Saharawi Political Prisoners

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Bir Lehlu — President of the Republic , Secretary General of the Polisario Front, Mohamed Abdelaziz,has urged the Liberal International to intervene to seek the reversal of the arbitrary verdicts against 25 Saharawi political prisoners sentenced by Moroccan military court on Feb16, with 20 years to life imprisonment.

"On behalf of the Frente POLISARIO, I would like to address to you this letter to draw your attention to the latest developments regarding the trial of 24 Sahrawi human rights activists who were unjustly convicted by a Moroccan Court Martial in Rabat." said President in a message to LI President.

"I would like to kindly request you to raise this issue among all the member and observer parties as well as the fraternal and associated organisations of the LI; in addition to urging all of them to intervene immediately to seek the reversal of the arbitrary rulings by the Moroccan Court Martial, and the release of all the Sahrawi political prisoners in Moroccan jails." he added.

the full text of the letter is below

"Dear Mr. Baalen,

On behalf of the Frente POLISARIO, I would like to address to you this letter to draw your attention to the latest developments regarding the trial of 24 Sahrawi human rights activists who were unjustly convicted by a Moroccan Court Martial in Rabat.

On Saturday, 16 February 2013, the Moroccan Court-Martial, in the deepest hours of the night, has issued cruel judgments against the 24 Saharawi prisoners of conscience imprisoned in Salé (Morocco) ever since the dismantling of the Gdeim Izik protest camp near El Aaiun (Western Sahara) by the Moroccan forces.

The politically motivated and unjust sentences against the Sahrawi human rights activists, including life imprisonment, were handed in a trial that was fraught with legal irregularities as attested to by the independent and international observers that managed to follow the trial. A host of international human rights organisations and groups have also expressed their deep concern about the proceedings of this unjust trial, which Amnesty international has considered flawed from the outset. In addition, Amnesty International underlined that "the trial of civilians before a military court does not meet internationally recognised standards for a fair trial. The 24 accused must be brought before a civilian court with all the human rights guarantees that go along with it, and in no event must anyone be sentenced to death", as stated by Philip Luther, Amnesty International's Director for the Middle East and North Africa, on 1 February 2013.

As you may be aware, the 24 human rights activists were arrested in the aftermath of the dismantling of the Gdeim Izik Protest Camp on 8th November 2010, when Moroccan troops and police attacked violently tens of thousands of Sahrawi civilians who were staying at Gdeim Izik Camp, to the east of the occupied city of El Aaiun. The main goal of the Sahrawi civilians was to protest peacefully against the deteriorating socio-economic and political conditions in which they have been living for over 35 years under Morocco's illegal occupation of their country.

The Saharawi prisoners, human rights activists, were being arbitrarily accused in particular of "undermining the internal and external security of the State, forming a criminal group and attacking public officials in the course of their regular duties".

The prisoners were all on remand, without charge for more than two years, and this is illegal under the Moroccan Criminal Code. They staged four hunger strikes in order to alert public opinion and to claim for improvements in their conditions of detention and their unconditional release. The Saharawi political prisoners contested the legitimacy of the military court; they also expressed their attachment to the inalienable right of the Saharawi people to self determination, whilst condemning the crimes perpetrated by the Moroccan State against the Saharawi citizens.

The Moroccan Court-Martial handed down 9 life imprisonment sentences and sentenced 14 other defendants to between 20-30 years imprisonment each. Two other defendants were released having served their two-year sentences in pre-trial detention.

The defendants have systematically denounced they have been submitted to torture to provide "confessions". Obviously, the President of Court refused to investigate such claims. The defence attorneys also confirmed the absence of the detainees' fingerprints in the bladed weapons, the lack of DNA proofs; in addition, it was impossible to identify none of the accused in the video screened during the trial relating to the dismantling of Gdeim Izik protest camp.

In this respect, I would like to make emphasis on the fact that, under international law, a Moroccan Court-Martial lacks jurisdiction to prosecute acts and events taking place in Western Sahara, a Non-Self-governing Territory, pending decolonisation and legally under the UN mandate through its Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO). This means that the Saharawi people should exercise their inalienable right to self-determination and independence through a free and fair referendum; and decide the final status of their territory in a democratic and genuine way. I would like to remind you that Morocco only has the status of an occupying power.

I would like to kindly request you to raise this issue among all the member and observer parties as well as the fraternal and associated organisations of the LI; in addition to urging all of them to intervene immediately to seek the reversal of the arbitrary rulings by the Moroccan Court Martial, and the release of all the Sahrawi political prisoners in Moroccan jails.

The issue of Western Sahara is one of gross injustice. The current stalemate cannot continue. It wholly undermines the credibility of the UN, highlighting a complete failure to organise a referendum and to protect basic human rights. That is why I would like to ask you to support the urgent establishment of a mechanism for monitoring and reporting on human rights within MINURSO's mandate due to the significant increase in human rights violations in the Sahrawi occupied territories

I would be grateful if you would bring this letter to the attention of all the members of the LI.

Trusting that you would take the content of this letter into due consideration, I avail myself of this opportunity to express to you the assurances of my highest considerations.

Mohamed Abdelaziz, President of Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic and Secretary-General of Frente POLISARIO

SPS

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