The trial against the Group of Gdeim Izik commenced at 10:00 on the 26th of December at the Tribunal de Premiere Instance de Sale. There were 24 on trial, while only 23 were present at court.
Mohamed El Ayubi was not present at the trial proceedings, as he was sentenced to 20 years under provisional release due to his debilitated health condition.
The 21 prisoners present in court were situated in some sort of “glass-cage”, on the right hand side of the courtroom. The “glass-cage” was guarded by a dozen policemen. The placement of the prisoners in the “glass-cage” meant that they were not able to hear the proceedings and that they were not able to collaborate with their defense attorneys; and therefore isolated from following their own appeal.
The trial was officially made open to the public. The families of the victims were given access to the courtroom, and were placed as observers in court, while the defendants’ families were not given access to the courtroom, and were denied access upon arrival. Similarly, Moroccan media was granted access to the courtroom with cameras and recording devices, whereas international media were declined to enter with cameras, mobile phones and such.
The first day of proceedings raised two main questions; (1) partial status and (2) provisional release pending trial.
Regarding the question of postponement, the defense did not want the trial to be postponed, and requested that the trial was to commence, still with one of the accused missing. The prosecution invoked that the trial was to be postponed until the last accused appeared before the court.
The president of the court invoked that a party missing participation from the trial’s beginning could not be a part in the appeal. Furthermore, the judge claimed that the international lawyers did not have the sufficient knowledge of the Moroccan legal system.
The court invoked that international law does not take precedence over Moroccan law, and furthermore that the Moroccan legal system was in correlation with its international obligations. In that regard, the court did not have to emphasize the international treaties.
The next question concerned provisional release pending trial. Proceedings commenced with the French lawyers arguing for provisional release.
Mr. Joseph Breham argued solely for the release of Enaama Asfari. Mr. Breham tried repeatedly to highlight the 12 December 2016 decision of the Committee against Torture, which concluded that the confessions used as evidence at the Military court was obtained through torture. This was denied by the president.
Mr. Breham invoked that Morocco, as a party of the Convention against Torture, is obliged to exclude evidence obtained through torture. Similarly, the defense argued, as the Committee against Torture had stated on the Asfari case, that a proven torture requires compensation, and the defendant should therefore be released.
The Court ruled that the torture convention’s decision was irrelevant while discussing provisional release pending trial. Thus, the Court denied Mr. Bremham to bring the convention and its decision up in the proceedings.
During the proceedings, made by Mr. Breham, the Moroccan prosecution interrupted repeatedly, and at several occasions even raised to their feet and waved. The judge did not interfere. The prosecution also claimed that foreign lawyers are not allowed to address the court in any other language than Arabic. Therefore, the French lawyers was bound to address the Court through a translator.
Mrs. Ingrid Metton argued for the release of every prisoner, and made the Court aware of circumstances within the courtroom. For instance, the prisoners’ inability to adequate follow the trial, due to the fact that the prisoners were unable to hear the proceedings inside of the “glass-cage”. Or their missing consent when it comes to pictures being taken of them, their lawyers and the international observers in Court. As well as the publication of these unapproved pictures by Moroccan media.
Mr. Mohamed Masaoudi further argued that the prisoners on trial were innocent. As such, one cannot speak of a fair trial when 21 innocent men have been imprisoned for 6 years. It was here argued that the accused are imprisoned based on a decision that is null and void. The prisoners are not proven guilty, and their right to be regarded as innocent until proven guilty is severely violated. The defense thus argued a continued imprisonment violates the right to freedom.
The defense also claimed that the accused are political prisoners that were in negotiations with the Moroccan government during their time at the protest camp in Gdeim Izik. It was argued that all of the accused are peaceful political activist that promotes human rights and the right to life, and therefore condemn the loss of life.
The defense invoked guarantees where they proved that all of the 21 prisoners have homes, where some of the accused have, or had, secure jobs. It was argued that the defendants were willing to appear in front of the court every day in order to prove their innocence; both to the Moroccan government and the people.
The court ruled that the trial was to be postponed until the 23rd of January. The verdict was based on the missing defendant (Mohamed El Ayubi, released on provisional release) and the complex questions invoked (partial status for the international lawyers),
Furthermore, the court ruled that none of the accused were to be granted provisional release depending trial.
Since 1975, three quarters of the territory of Western Sahara has been occupied by Morocco. A majority of the population is still living in refugee camps in Algeria. Those who remained in their homeland are subjected to serious harassment from the Moroccan occupiers. For more than 40 years the Sahrawis have been waiting for the fullfilment of their legitimate right to self-determination.
Give a donation!
Support the Support Committee. Help us work for the Sahrawi people's struggle for self-determination. Give a donation here.