The court commenced on March 15th at 10:15 am, with interrogating Larabi El Bakay.
Mohammed El Bakay started with sending his regard towards the defence, the civil party, the presiding judge and the international observers present at the trial. He thereafter plead not-guilty in every charge brought against him. He told about how he had built his tent in the Gdeim Izik camp, where he had social demands, where the natural resources are stolen from Western Sahara, which he has never benefited from. He urged that the camp was a symbol of peaceful demonstrations.
He claimed that there was no official organization inside the camp, whereas the camp had no hierarchy, and that he is sure that the Moroccan authorities already had the intel. He stated that “I am a Saharawi, I and I will not let my Sahrawian identity be questioned; where the people in the camp of Gdeim Izik had social demands.“ The prosecution asked if El Bakay had received financial aid, or orders from someone, whilst staying at the camp; El Bakay answered that the nature of the Saharawis is to help others in need; and that he never received orders from anyone.
El Bakay explained how he was part of the dialogue committee which was in negotiations with the Moroccan government. He explained how they had reached an agreement upon social demands, but never on evacuation. The agreement was never set into place due to the fact that not all parties agreed to the content. El Bakay explained how the camp grew in size, and that the governmental officials had told them to count the people in the camp. When asked about the delegation that travelled to Algeria, El Bakay answered that the camp Gdeim Izik was not a plan from the outside, but was a force from inside where people had social demands. When asked about whether Eênaama Asfari wanted to politicise the camp, El Bakay told that the governmental officials had told that Asfari wanted to politicise the camp, whilst “they only had social demands”.
El Bakay explained how the military surrounded the camp ever since the first tent was set into place, where the military forces made a wall around the camp, and made one gate. He condemned the intervention from the military forces, where the people in the camp were given 10 minutes to evacuate. When the defence asked El Bakay what he meant with “chaos” during the dismantlement; if this meant that the public attacked the forces or if the military attacked the people; the court refused to ask the question.
He told that he had been woken up by a helicopter telling people to evacuate the premises. He walked towards his car, and brought with him several women, and carried an old woman to his car which had fainted due to the teargas that the Moroccan authorities had thrown at the camp. He told that the majority of the inhabitants, mostly women and children, fainted from the teargas.
The prosecution asked El Bakay about the declarations where he stated that on the evening of November 7th, he had conferred with the leaders in the camp (i.e. as Eênaama Asfari, Abdeljalil Laaroussi, and Cheikh Banga), and decided to attack the military forces the following day, and were given orders by Asfari to attack until death. El Bakay claimed that he had not taken orders from anyone.
El Bakay told about, on the day of his arrest in Dakhla on September 9th in 2012, that he was interrogated and solely asked three questions; about his relationship with Eênaama Asfari, and questions about some images. El Bakay stated that he was treated nicely by the military forces, and during the interrogations. He claimed that he has never seen the declarations, and that the content remained unknown until this day. He signed them without reading them. The prosecution general told El Bakay to sign, and then he would be released; “So I signed” he stated. He stated that it was impossible for him to imagine at that time that the government would frame him, and sentence him based upon a “made up case”.
The defence protested after the interrogation since El Bakay had been placed on a chair with a name tag that stated “terrorist” on the back, whilst the interrogation was broadcasted on national television.
Mohammed Lamin Haddi was the next to be questioned. He commenced by stating that this Moroccan court house does “not have the legitimacy to judge us”. Haddi had prepared a declaration of his own, and wanted to read it up. He declared that he had been present in the Gdeim Izik camp, due to his political activism and his human rights activism. The day of the dismantlement of the camp Haddi was in his house in El Aaiún, together with a journalist and some other human rights activists. He explained how he witnessed the protests in El Aaiún, where civilians were killed by the Moroccan forces, women were raped, houses were destroyed and hundreds of Saharawi were arrested. People were shot in the street; and two of my friends died that day, he said.
Haddi explained how he was arrested while accompanying two doctors from the “Doctors without borders” in El Aaiún on November 20th, 2010. Haddi explained that he was transported by the police to the military headquarters where he was tortured; and stated “I still suffer under torture”. He explained that they interrogated him under torture, and never asked any questions about the camp Gdeim Izik, only about his trip to Algeria and about international observers coming to the occupied territories of Western Sahara. He claimed that he was forced to sign declarations without knowing what was written. He explained how, at the Military Court, he asked the judge to witness his scars, and document that he was covered in blood; whereas the judge answered that he was not a doctor. He claimed that the clerk that wrote the minutes was the same person which had tortured him inside of the court facilities, recognizing him by his perfume.
He was by the prosecution asked about his trip to Algeria in August 2010, where a delegation of 72 people had travelled to an international forum to discuss human rights. He denied that the trip to Algeria and the following Gdeim Izik camp was linked in any way. He was asked questions about Eênaama Asfari based upon the declarations, which Haddi refused to answer due to the fact that the declarations are retrieved under torture, and falsified. He claimed that Asfari was arrested on November 7th, and it was therefore impossible that Asfari had committed the crimes he is accused of on November 8th.
Mohammed refused to answer questions both relating to the declarations retrieved under torture, and questions based on the film portrayed in the courtroom on March 13th, due to the fact that the film is not a part of the evidence in the case, and that the film was not legitimate.
When the Civil Party commenced with the questioning Mohammed Lamin Haddi refused to answer. He proclaimed that the civil party did not have the legitimacy to ask him questions. He used taped to form a cross over his mouth, as a symbol of a peaceful protest against the questions raised by the civil party. The civil party commenced with asking 57 questions, where Haddi evoked his right to remain silent. When the defence wanted to ask questions, the presiding judge refused to ask the questions, due to the fact that the question had already been asked. The civil party had thus covered every aspect that was possible to cover, prohibiting the defence from questioning the accused.
Sidi Abderahmane Zeyou, released with time served by the Military Court in 2013, was thereafter questioned by the court. Zeyou approached the witness stand after putting on the Daraá, the traditional Saharawi costume, whilst chanting that the only solution is self-determination.
Zeyou started his declaration by expressing his condolences to the families of the victims, and everyone who was arrested. He stated his condolences to all the Saharawis who died during the dismantlement of the camp, and urged that there should not be discrimination between the victims. He demanded investigation into the killing of a 14 year-old boy, who was killed by the Moroccan forces surrounding the Gdeim Izik camp on the 24th of October.
He declared himself innocent on all charges, and asked for the possibility to explain himself.
Zeyou was repeatedly interrupted by both the Civil Party, the prosecution and the presiding judge. Zeyou stated that the Gdeim Izik camps, and the events following, are linked to the political conflict in the occupied territories in Western Sahara. He urged that the idea of the provisional camp was not a product of the trip to Algeria, but was a result of the repression that the Saharawi’s live under. He was again interrupted by the prosecution and the civil party.
Zeyou demanded the right to both defend himself and explain himself towards and in front of the ones who want to incriminate him. He stated that "our political opinions deprive us of our social rights". The civil party interrupted again, declaring that Zeyou cannot talk about the Saharawis in general, but must address the charges brought against him.
The Civil Party stated; "he tries to protect murderers. He is a murder and he urinated on the corpses". Protest raised at once in the courtroom, and the accused tried to leave the courtroom, due to this statement. The judge calmed the courtroom, and stated that we are not interested in their opinion on guilt, and that the accused are innocent until proven otherwise. The civil party claimed that they, as advocating on behalf of the victims, had the right to say whatever they want. The defence urged the court to protect the defendants, and to remind the court that the accused are in the care of the court whilst being interrogated; and that the court must protect the defendants from being called a murderer. The defence furthermore highlighted that Zeyou was not charged with murder, nor molesting of corpses.
The prosecution answered that the case is still in an investigation period, and that both the charges and the sentence can be altered by the court. The defence urged that the right to an appeal is universal, and that no one can be harmed by their appeal, and the court could not alter the charges against the accused, and that the accused, who has been released, must remain in freedom.
The examination advanced, and Zeyou stated that the investigations after the dismantlement of the camp, was not set forward to reach the truth, but to revenge the political activism. He stated that those who killed the victims are responsible, and that the Moroccan authorities who portray the victims in their propaganda towards the defendants, are the ones responsible.
He urged that he was not at the camp site, and that he was not involved with the crime, and that he was, at the time of the event, at home in his house in El Aaiún. He stated that all the declarations were retrieved under torture, and that he had been forced to sign them with his fingerprint. He claimed that he was never interrogated about the Gdeim Izik, and that he has evidence that support the fact that the accusations brought against him are not based on a desire to find the truth, but vengeance. He explained how there had been casualties on both sides; both from the official authorities and from the civil population; and that they are all victims; but the people are told lies.
Zeyou told about how the Saharawi people fought a peaceful fight since 1991, and that the Saharawi’s do not believe in violence. What happened in the Gdeim Izik is a catastrophe he claimed; they are trying to help the security forces by putting the blame on other parties.
He explained that the camp was surrounded, and on October 22th the camp was placed under a siege, like it was Gaza, and the authorities attacked the camp. “I tried to stop the intervention by contacting the prosecutor general in El Aaiún, because the camp consisted of women, children and old people, and the result would be disastrous. My activism is the reason for my arrest; I have never murdered anyone and I have never harmed anyone; that goes against everything I believe in.”
When the civil party started to ask questions, Zeyou invoked his right to remain silent, and explained that he respected the attorneys but refused to answer their questions since the attorneys had already judged him as a criminal. The civil party asked 20 questions which Zeyou refused to answer. When the defence asked questions related to guaranties upon arrest the court refused to ask the question.
The court adjourned until Monday, March 20th, at 00:40 am.
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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