The appeal for the “Gdeim Izik 25” resumed at the Tribunal de Premiere Instance de Sale in Rabat, Morocco on the 23rd of January 2017.
At 10:45am the presiding judge, followed by five other judges, entered the courtroom and stated: “In the name of the king we open this court”.
The defendants were brought into to the courtroom in two groups. The first group entered the courtroom shouting “labadil labadil antakrir al massir” – the only solution is self- determination.
The judge called for respect for the court, and reminded everyone present that the court respects the rule of law. The second group did not arrive, and the president called for them. The second group shouted: “torture, torture, torture!” from the basement. It was made clear that the prisoners had been woken up at 4:00 am in the morning, and kept in an ice-cold basement until the court was opened.
The families of the accused were allowed to enter the courtroom (i.e. every Saharawi were prohibited from entering at the proceedings in December 2016). Protests emerged within the court facilities when the families arrived. The Saharawi’s called for the right to self- determination, whereas the Moroccans demanded conviction of the criminals and justice for the victims.
The defence demanded chairs for all of the accused, so they could be placed within the courtroom, and follow the proceedings. The defendants were ordered back into the glass-cage.
The presiding judge informed the court that the glass-cage had newly installed speakers inside of the “cage”, but the defendants were still prohibited from collaborating with their defence attorneys. Shortly after the prisoners were placed inside the glass-cage the defendants themselves made it clear that they could not adequately follow the proceedings, as the active parts did not sufficiently use the microphones. Despite of this, the prisoners remained inside the “glass-cage” for the whole three days. Regardless of the numerous complaints made by both the accused themselves and by the defence. The defendants were furthermore deprived of their papers and pens, which they had brought from the prison to take notes from the proceedings. The defendants claimed that they needed their pens and papers to adequately follow the proceedings and to adequately answer the accusations put forward.
Mohamed El Ayubi was not present at the proceedings. The courtroom was informed that Ayubi was, due to his health condition, in hospital. The prosecution reported that Mohamed El Ayubi had been informed of the proceedings through a distant relative. The prosecution insisted that this was adequate, meaning that Ayubi had been sufficiently informed about the proceedings. The defence however, argued that this was not sufficient, and that Ayubi had the right to be informed of the trial in person. If the authorities were unable to get a hold of Ayubi, they had to forward the information to a close relative. However, it was pointed out by the defence that the public office clearly knew where he was.
The question that was raised was whether the group case was to be postponed due to the fact that one of the accused was missing. After a recession, the court ruled that the proceedings should commence without Ayubi, and that the case of Ayubi was to be separated from the rest of the group and held on March 13th of 2017. After a break, the defendants refused to come back into the courtroom due to the fact that they were not given their pencils back. The court ruled that the 22 prisoners in the “glass-cage” were to be given, in total, three pens and three pieces of paper. Furthermore, the prisoners could only keep paper that were in compliance with the case put forward and that were relevant for the proceedings. The presiding judge would therefore go through all the documents. The judge pointed out that this was a “matter of security” since the prisoners could easily “kill someone” with a pen.
Since the presiding judge had ruled that the trial would commence, the defence argued that they needed more time to prepare their defence. They had not been given the chance to meet with their clients, despite numerous requests. Also, the defence had not been given access to all of the case documents. The defence therefore asked for 24 hours to prepare their defence alongside with their clients.
The defence was given “24 hours” until 10 am the next day. However, the time was then 5:40 pm, so in reality the defence was only given 16 hours and 20 minutes, including the night.
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.
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