17 January 2014

Morocco Opposition Party Sues Prime Minister

Rabat — Moroccan opposition party Istiqlal is taking Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane to court.

A defamation complaint against Benkirane was filed Thursday (January 9th) after the premier insinuated to parliament - without mentioning Istiqlal by name - that the opposition party was involved in capital flight.

The issue of the transfer of domestic assets to foreign countries drew public attention when the Moroccan Commission for the Protection of Public Property (INPBPM) accused Itstiqlal MP Yasmina Baddou of buying two apartments in Paris by "suspicious means".

But Istiqlal chief Hamid Chabat said that in making the comments to parliament, the prime minister had "exceeded his constitutional powers and encroached on those of the judiciary, which is the only body empowered to make accusations".

"This is a violation of the principle of separation of powers," Chabat added at a January 4th press conference about the complaint.

"Benkirane will be called upon to reveal the list of all persons involved in matters relating to the flight of capital and its origins," the party chief said.

According to Istiqlal spokesman Adil Benhamza, a routine parliamentary session on December 31st "turned into a meeting for the purpose of holding forth and settling political accounts".

Benkirane's statements at the session were aimed squarely at Istiqlal, even though the allegations against Baddou had not been proven, political analyst Jamal Farhani tells Magharebia.

"The prime minister's duty is not to make accusations, but to ensure that justice is served. If he has any complaints to make about corruption, maladministration or capital flight, Benkirane must refer them to the courts, otherwise he will have to resign," Farhani says.

Many members of the public say the courts must be allowed to exercise all of their prerogatives, including that of independence, so that such matters can be investigated in a transparent manner.

For Karim Moubssit, a student, this showdown between the IP and the PJD is an opportunity to raise the issue of combating corruption.

Citizens would rather see concrete efforts to tackle corruption than these kinds of political disputes, teacher Halima Cherradi agrees.

"If the Istiqlal Party is really involved in capital flight, it must be prosecuted," she says. If not, it is up to the prime minister to assume full responsibility for his statements, Cherradi adds.

"People must be kept informed about the details of controversial matters," she says.

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