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V. Case Studies

Abdelghani Ben Taous

Abdelghani Ben Taous teaches Islamic studies at a high school in Casablanca. He is forty-five years old, married and the father of three children.  He was arrested on June 10, 2003, during a midnight raid on his home by uniformed and plainclothes security officials. Ben Taous was grading student exams when they arrived, according to his sister, Jamila Ben Taous. She told Human Rights Watch that more than ten armed security men surrounded his house and forced open the door without presenting a search warrant. They handcuffed and hooded him and took him away barefoot. They confiscated religious books and documents that are legal in Morocco, as well as Ben Taous’ mobile telephone, personal checks, and passport.109

Jamila Ben Taous said that the day following Abdelghani’s arrest she went to the central police station in Casablanca, where she was told that her brother had been taken to the Temara detention center. Ben Taous’s lawyer, Taoufiq Moussaif, told Human Rights Watch that his client was questioned by the judicial police for one day following his arrest, and then taken to Temara for interrogation.110 Ben Taous’s wife Fatima, who was the only family member allowed to attend the trial, said when she first saw her husband in court he was weak and could not stand on his own, and needed to sit when addressing the panel of judges.111 His wife also said that, during the trial, Ben Taous said that he had signed a confession under torture and duress. A journalist who covered many of trials of Islamists in Rabat and attended the trial of Ben Taous told Human Rights Watch that he testified that he had been sexually abused during his interrogation.112

The government accused Ben Taous of being an “amir” of the illegal Salafia Jihadia organization in Casablanca, an accusation that he denied.113 Moussaif, the lawyer who agreed to represent Ben Taous, said he took Ben Taous as a client after he had been in detention for almost a month without access to a lawyer. He told Human Rights Watch that in the police log the date of Ben Taous’s arrest was recorded as June 23, 2003 – and not the actual date of June 10 – so as to cover up the illegally long period he was held in garde à vue detention in Temara. The judicial police registry viewed by Human Rights Watch states that Ben Taous “was held in garde à vue detention from 9:30 am on June 23, 2003 until 5:00 pm on June 26, 2003, when he was presented before the crown prosecutor in the Rabat Court of Appeals, and the relatives of the concerned were notified about this process.” The registry also states that Ben Taous’ place of detention was Anfa police station in Casablanca, and nowhere mentions Temara, although according to his lawyer he spent only one day in Casablanca and more than two weeks in Temara.

The police and security services accused Ben Taous during his interrogation of spreading the ideology of jihad in Morocco. The official charges include forming a “criminal gang” to prepare and commit acts of terrorism; attempted murder; attempted theft; attempted manufacture and attempted possession of explosives; attempted collection of funds with the intent to use them for terrorist acts and incitement to commit terrorist acts.  Ben Taous was also accused of threatening the internal peace of the country by committing offenses intended to destabilize the country; holding unauthorized public meetings; and initiating activities in associations not licensed for such activities. Ben Taous denied involvement with any terrorist group or carrying out any illegal activity. During his interrogations, according to his lawyer, he condemned the Casablanca bombings of May 16, 2003.  

According to his lawyer, Ben Taous spent about two weeks in the Temara detention center. His attorney told Human Rights Watch that at Temara he endured beatings with a stick, electric shocks, slaps on the face, shackling, verbal intimidation and humiliation, and sleep deprivation. The lawyer also told Human Rights Watch that his client reported that several security officials stripped him and put their fingers into his anus on two occasions, threatening to rape him. After two weeks of interrogation he was presented to the prosecutor, who saw him for only a few minutes before referring him to an investigative judge. Then he was taken to Salé Prison near Rabat where, according to his lawyer, he was placed in a solitary cell with two sheets but no bed or mattress. He spent nearly one month in solitary confinement.

Moussaif told Human Rights Watch that on July 23, 2003 authorities transferred his client from pre-trial detention in Salé prison into the hands of DST officials in Temara after he had refused to sign a document that retroactively gave his consent to the search of his house. Ben Taous’s second detention at the Temara security compound lasted nine days. When Moussaif next saw him, on July 31, his client appeared exhausted and traumatized, but showed no marks of having been tortured.  But Ben Taous told Moussaif that he had indeed been tortured again. Moussaif had access to visit Ben Taous only after enlisting the help of the head of the bar association of Rabat (al-naqib), who learned from officials at the ministry of justice that Ben Taous had been transferred to a different prison for questioning on a different case.

During the trial, attorney Moussaif argued that Ben Taous’s confessions were made under torture and duress, and that he had been forced to sign statements while blindfolded. The prosecutor denied the allegations and claimed that there was no material proof of his allegation of torture. The trial court in Rabat Court of Appeals did not address the torture allegations and stated in its final ruling that the defendant’s “denial is only a vague defensive argument aimed at escaping criminal responsibility.”114

Based primarily on the confession that he made before the judicial police, Ben Taous was found guilty on most of the charges and sentenced to twenty years in prison.115   

Ahmed Chikou

Ahmed Chikou is a 53-year-old resident of Casablanca, married and the father of five children. He sells mobile phones and other electronic devices. He was arrested in his shop around 10:00 a.m. on June 6, 2003, by uniformed police officers and other security men in plainclothes. According to his brother, Ibrahim Chikou, the security force arrived at Ahmed’s shop in a Mercedes 240 and a police wagon. Ahmed was accused of holding money on behalf of al-Tayeb Bentissi, allegedly a prominent member of the illegal “Moroccan Islamic Fighting Group” (al-Jama’a al-Islamiyya al-moukatala al-maghribiyya). Chikou’s lawyer, Taoufiq Moussaif, told Human Rights Watch that Chikou kept his savings in his house and shop and never had a bank account. During the search of his shop the police found and confiscated 914,600 Moroccan dirhams (worth approximately US$109,000) and US$100 in cash. Chikou admitted that he had agreed to safeguard the amount of $17,000, which he exchanged into dirhams in order to comply with laws on possession of foreign currency, but he claimed he did not know the source of the funds or that it had any connection to terrorist organizations. Chikou’s brother Ibrahim, who witnessed the arrest, told Human Rights Watch that the security men questioned his brother in his store for about fifteen minutes. He saw four persons in plainclothes taking his brother to his house in order to conduct a search there. Ibrahim said that they did not find anything in the house but left it in disarray.

After Chikou was taken by the security officers, his family did not know his whereabouts for about two months. “We asked in many police stations about my brother, as well as the prosecutor’s office,” Ibrahim told Human Rights Watch, “but they wouldn’t give us information about him. We thought he might have died.”116 He also said that the first four lawyers whom the family approached to represent Chikou refused to take the case due to its sensitivity. Eventually Moussaif agreed, and saw Chikou for the first time after the investigative judge had completed his report on the case and only a few days before the trial began in mid-August 2003. Chikou’s brother told Human Rights Watch that the police never notified the family about Chikou’s detention and that they got information about him only through Moussaif.

The police falsified the date of Chikou’s arrest in their registry, Moussaif said, changing it from June 6 to July 20, 2003, in order to cover up the illegally long garde à vue.117 According to Moussaif, Chikou was blindfolded during the interrogation by police and was forced to sign a statement that he had not read. The investigative judge noted in his final order referring the suspect to the criminal chamber that when Chikou was represented by a court-appointed attorney during the judge’s investigation, he repudiated the statements he had purportedly made to the police and said he was innocent of all charges.118 Moussaif told Human Rights Watch that his client told him that the police had verbally abused him and threatened to rape his wife. Chikou’s brother, Ibrahim, told Human Rights Watch that Chikou had been verbally threatened but not physically tortured.

The judicial police registry indicates that Chikou was extensively questioned about his past, about his interest in religious studies, about the names of persons who attended religious lessons, and about preachers and religious scholars. Chikou appeared on August 5, 2003, before the investigative judge. According to Moussaif, who began to represent Chikou only after the investigation phase had been completed, his client did not have legal representation before the investigative judge. This contradicts the assertions both by the state prosecutor and the investigative judge that Chikou had been represented before them by a court-appointed lawyer named Kamal al-Alaoui. According to Moussaif, passport stamps show that al-Alaoui was not even in Morocco on August 5, 2003, the date in question.119 The investigative judge also mentioned, in a document dated August 15, 2003, that Kamal al-Alaoui represented al-Tayeb Bentissi, another defendant in the same case who incriminated Chikou in his testimony. If attorney Kamal al-Alaoui indeed represented both defendants, then the conflict of interest in his multiple representations jeopardized Chikou’s right to proper legal representation at his trial.

The prosecutor asked the court to sentence Chikou to twenty years in prison for forming a criminal gang for the purpose of committing terrorist acts; participation in collecting and managing funds for terrorist acts; organizing public meetings without a permit; and conducting activities on behalf of an unlicensed association. The panel of trial judges refused requests by Chikou’s defense to call witnesses in order to prove the real date of arrest and the violation of the legal time limit for garde à vue detention. The Court stated that those witnesses were not part of previous legal proceedings, that the police investigation had been properly concluded, and that no procedural irregularities had been found in the police’s record-keeping, which had been supervised by the public prosecutor. 

The court also dismissed a defense challenge to the court’s jurisdiction over the case, based on the argument that the offenses in question were alleged to have taken place before the promulgation of the counter-terror legislation, which assigned exclusive jurisdiction to the Rabat Court of Appeals to hear all terror cases. The court stated that, according to the records of the judicial police, the facts and the alleged acts formed an uninterrupted series in time and were part and parcel of the criminal investigations launched following the May 16, 2003 bombings. Even if some of the acts were committed before May 28, the date the counter-terror law took effect, the judges argued, jurisdiction properly resided with this court. The court acquitted Chikou on the charge of forming a terrorist organization but sentenced him to five years in prison and a fine of 500,000 dirhams (about US$60,000) for holding the $17,000 for a member of a terrorist organization, and for organizing a public meeting without a permit.120

Abderrezak er-Rtaoui

Abderrezak er-Rtaoui is 45 years old, married, and the father of seven. He has a grocery store in Casablanca and suffers from rheumatism in his back. He was arrested on May 18, 2003, at 9:00 p.m. His daughter Khadija told Human Rights Watch that six persons in plainclothes came to their house at around 5:30 p.m. that day. They knocked, pushed the door open, and asked about her father, who was not at home. They searched the house without presenting a search warrant and left it in disarray.121  They also took Abd al-Razzaq’s younger brother, Mohamed er-Rtaoui, into custody.

The next day, at 10:00 p.m., Abderrezak returned home under the escort of nine security men. According Khadija, he was in terrible shape. Two men were holding his arms. They searched the house once again and seized religious books. They left again with Abderrezak. The family contacted police stations and the court but could get no information about his whereabouts or his health. A few weeks after his arrest the family learned about his arrest through a media report that carried the names of persons listed by the public prosecutor as having been detained following the Casablanca bombings. Abderrezak was represented by an attorney appointed by the court, Ibrahim Massoudi from Casablanca. Abderrezak’s mother, Naima al-Beqaoui, told Human Rights Watch that when she visited him in Kenitra prison, he told her that police had blindfolded him and forced him to sign a statement. His mother said he told her that while he was in police custody he was stripped, beaten, tortured with electric shocks, and deprived of sleep. He was sentenced to thirty years in prison for terrorist crimes on August 18, 2003.

Aziz Shafai

Aziz Shafai, 24 years old, is a second-year university student in mathematics and physics. He comes from a poor family and worked part-time to support his studies. The family lives in the Sidi Moumen neighborhood of Casablanca. Six of the twelve May 2003 suicide bombers came from Sidi Moumen.

Shafai was arrested on the night of May 18, 2003, for alleged links to the bombings. According to his lawyer, al-Ftouhi Abd al-Haq, he was arrested because his cousin was one of the bombers.122 Aziz confessed that his cousin had told him one week before the actual bombing that a terrorist act would be carried out; but that he did not take it seriously, know any details, or know that his cousin would be one of the bombers.

When Aziz was arrested, he was studying for one of his final exams. His sister, Khadija Shafai, told Human Rights Watch that her brother was pious and open-minded. She said that seven plainclothes police carried out the arrest and searched the home for forty-five minutes, finding only religious texts.123 The security force told the family that Aziz would be released after questioning and investigation. Khadija said the family did not learn of Aziz’s whereabouts until the end of July, when the media named him as a member of one of three groups allegedly connected to the May 16 bombings.

Abd al-Haq was appointed to represent Shafai only when he was about to face trial. Abd al-Haq told Human Rights Watch that he had his first chance to meet Shafai only after Shafai had been referred to a trial panel and after the investigation judge has already concluded his work. He said Shafai told him he had been coerced to confess and that during his police investigation he was asked to respond to questions with a simple “yes” or “no.” The lawyer said that no marks of physical torture were evident. When the lawyer met with Shafai in prison they could not talk freely because guards closely monitored meetings between lawyers and clients. Abd al-Haq told Human Rights Watch that Shafai told him that he figured out that he was standing before an investigative judge only by reading the sign on the judge’s table. According to Abd al-Haq, Shafai said the investigative judge did not inform him of his right to have an attorney. During the trial, Abd al-Haq told Human Rights Watch, the judicial panel refused the defense’s request to call any of the witnesses who had appeared before the investigative judge, explaining that whatever had been reported and established by the investigative judge was adequate and acceptable for the trial phase. Shafai was convicted on charges related to his foreknowledge of and alleged association with individuals responsible for the May 2003 bombings, including murder and causing harm to the security of the state, and sentenced to thirty years in prison. 

Mohamed al-Asal

Mohamed al-Asal was born in November 1976 and works as an auto mechanic.  He lives in the Casablanca slum of Sekouila and was arrested on May 21, 2003, at 10 p.m. His wife, Bahidja Guerrouani, told Human Rights Watch that six men dressed in civilian clothes came to their house in a large, black unmarked car.124 Al-Asal was arrested outside the house. He was handcuffed by the security men, who escorted him back into the house in order to carry out a search. His wife told Human Rights Watch that the men presented no search warrant. The security force searched the house and confiscated a photograph, a cell phone, and 300 dirhams (about US$35).  They told her to be quiet but did not hit her or anyone else.

Guerrouani said that after they took al-Asal away, she went to the local police headquarters to ask about his whereabouts.  They told her to get out and refused to answer her questions.  About sixteen days later, she first learned of his status when the newspapers carried names of persons arrested in the aftermath of the May 16 attacks. Some fifty persons were arrested from the neighborhood where al-Asal and his family live, which was home also to several of the perpetrators of the May 16 attacks.

Al-Asal was tried before the Casablanca Appeals Court on July 6, 2003.  A court-appointed lawyer defended him.  Guerrouani said family members were prevented from attending the trial and that only the lawyer and journalists were allowed in.

Al-Asal was accused of plotting a bomb attack in Marrakesh, belonging to a “criminal gang,” “attacking national security,” “plotting to destroy public property,” and attending “unauthorized meetings.”  The court convicted him and sentenced him to life in prison. He was sent to Kenitra prison.

Guerrouani said when she visited her brother, he told her that he was first held in police custody in Casablanca and then transferred to Temara detention center.  He told her that police had inserted a bottle in his anus and made him sign a blank sheet of paper that they filled out later.

Abdelhamid Yazghi

Abdelhamid Yazghi, a 46-year-old unemployed accountant from Casablanca, was arrested on June 11, 2003, at 9 p.m.  His sister, Hassana Yazghi, said a man in plainclothes approached the neighbors, asked them about Abdelhamid, and then asked him to come out.  When Yazghi came into the courtyard, the man pretended as though he was an old friend, Hassana said.  There were several other men who came with this man and who remained at a distance until they came forward to place Yazghi in handcuffs. Hassana said they all wore civilian clothes, and one had a weapon.  She said they claimed that Yazghi was “hosting foreigners,” which he denied.  Hassana said she asked the men if they had a warrant, and that they replied, “We have instructions from high up, so don’t bother us about that.”

Hassana said that for three months after Yazghi’s arrest, the family knew nothing about his whereabouts. It was only through relatives of men detained in Salé prison that the family learned about his detention.125

The police log shows the date of Yazghi’s arrest as June 27, 2003, according to Hassana.  She said that when their mother visited Abdelhamid for the first time, he could not stand up straight. He told his family that he first spent seventeen days in Ma’arif detention center in Casablanca, a facility operated by the judicial police, and then five days in the Temara compound, where he was blindfolded, tortured, and ill-treated under interrogation. Yazghi told his relatives that the police had presented him with a written statement that did not correspond to what he had told them, warning that if he refused to sign it he would face more torture.

The trial took place in September 2003 and lasted for three sessions. The last session started at 8 a.m. and continued until 4 a.m. the next day.  Then at 7 a.m., after the judges deliberated, journalists came out of the chambers with the verdict. Yazghi was sentenced to ten years for harboring terrorists and failing to inform the authorities about them, among other charges.

Mohamed Oussama Boutaher

Mohamed Oussama Boutaher’s arrest on June 8, 2003, came three months after he had been released from nine months of detention without charge, first in Syria and then in Morocco. Boutaher’s wife, Rabia al-Baccali, told Human Rights Watch that Boutaher, a freelance merchant born in 1969, was picked up from his house in the al-Fareh area of Casablanca by a man wearing street clothes who identified himself as a policeman and said that Boutaher should come “have a coffee” with him.  When he did not return from his “coffee,” Boutaher’s mother went to the local police headquarters but could get no information. The mother told Human Rights Watch that at police headquarters she encountered the man who had invited her son for “coffee.”  When she called to him, “You took my son yesterday,” the man replied, “Don’t be afraid, I’ll feed him and he’ll be back home the next day.” But he did not return. Each day Boutaher’s mother went to the court to see if he would be brought in.  Twenty-four days after his arrest, the family heard his name mentioned on television, among a list of persons who would be brought to trial in Rabat’s Court of Appeals, the court with jurisdiction over defendants charged under the counter-terror law. She then traveled to the Rabat courthouse in an effort to learn his whereabouts.

The first time the family visited Boutaher in prison, he told them he had spent twenty days in detention, first in Casablanca and then in Temara, before being transferred to Salé prison. He cried and said he had been tortured with electricity and forced to provide the names of persons he did not know. He told his mother that the police blindfolded him and said, “We’re going to bring you before someone who will recite things to you and you are to say, ‘Yes, you did these things.’  If you deny you did those things, look out.”   Boutaher said the police escorted him into a room, removed his blindfold, and he signed a statement before a man who Boutaher said did not identify himself as a judge. At his second session before this man, according to Boutaher, he identified himself as the investigative judge.  But when Boutaher denied to this judge that he had made the statements ascribed to him in the police report, the judge replied that he had already signed his name to them.  The investigative judge did not take into consideration Boutaher’s allegations of torture, Boutaher’s wife said.

His wife said that Boutaher was represented at trial by a court-appointed attorney, Mohamed Sidi Khoia, based in Rabat.  The lawyer visited Boutaher once in prison before the trial. 

In September 2003, the Rabat Court of Appeals convicted Boutaher of possession of arms and explosives and theft, and sentenced him to twelve years in prison.  Al-Baccali said that Boutaher was convicted on the basis of his “confession” before the police. As of February 2004 he was serving his sentence in Kenitra prison. 

Al-Baccali told Human Rights Watch that prior to her husband’s latest arrest, Syrian authorities had detained him in July 2002, while he was in that country, and held him for three months without charge.  They then turned him over to Moroccan authorities, who held him for six more months before releasing him without charge in March 2003. Boutaher’s family had no idea what had happened to him until a man who had been detained with him in Morocco came to tell them that Boutaher was being held in the Temara detention center. The family had sought information, without success, from the ministry of justice, about his whereabouts. It was not until many months after his release – and subsequent re-arrest – that the ministry replied, informing the family that Boutaher was serving a sentence in Kenitra prison.126

Issam Khaled

As the previous case of Mohamed Oussama Boutaher shows, Moroccan security authorities have sometimes taken custody of Moroccan nationals arrested in foreign countries without notifying their families or providing access to defense lawyers.

Issam Khaled, a Moroccan living and working legally in Italy, was detained on November 18, 2003, as a terrorist suspect by Italian security services and deported to Morocco with five other Moroccan nationals the next day. Upon their arrival in Morocco they were interrogated for hours and then held incommunicado for periods ranging from a few days for some to two months for others.

Khaled, twenty-six years old, was working as a carpenter in Italy.  The Moroccans with whom he was deported had been living in Italy for up to fifteen years and left wives, children, and property in Italy when they were deported.

The Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera reported on November 19, 2003, that the prosecutor's office of Turin had ordered the six be arrested, but the investigative judge rejected the request for lack of evidence. The minister of interior decided instead to issue deportation orders against them and an Algerian citizen, based on a dossier prepared by Italian intelligence agencies saying they were suspected of having come from training camps of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, and that they were working to recruit fighters and collect money for terrorist activity.127

Khaled told Human Rights Watch that on November 18, 2003, a Special Forces unit raided his apartment in Turin. That night about twenty Moroccans living and working in Turin were arrested in similar raids. Describing his own experience, Khaled said:

The force included ten armed persons whose faces were masked. They asked to see my papers and my passport. They said they had information that in the house there are arms and forged papers and that they have a search permit from the ministry of interior.128

Khaled was taken to a Turin police station (the Questura di Torino) with his apartment-mate Mohamed Mezoui. They were told they would be questioned and released after an hour. Mezoui was released after two hours. During the raid the security forces confiscated Khaled’s legal papers as well as US$1,100 and 1,000 Euros (about US$1,200) in cash. He said that he had saved this amount to take with him back to Morocco on a planned visit, after four years of working abroad and after he obtained the documents and permits that would have allowed him to return to Italy.

Khaled described his ordeal in the police station in Turin before his deportation. He was held in a large hall together with the twenty other young Moroccan men arrested the same night:

First they took my fingerprints. Then I waited for almost 20 hours. Like the other Moroccans who were detained that night I was interrogated for one hour after midnight. There was no log or any other form of recording of the investigation. They told me I was a terrorist. I denied any involvement in any terrorist or illegal activity. Then they said there are three available options: one, to work for Italian security intelligence in return for a monthly salary and citizenship; two, to sign that I am a terrorist; three, handing me over to Morocco on the basis that I am a terrorist. They said it would be better for me to choose either to work for the security services or to admit that I was a terrorist because sending me back to Morocco would be risky, since human rights are not respected there and you would not know where you are.

Khaled told Human Rights Watch that he was given half an hour to choose. Reluctantly, he accepted to be sent to Morocco. He was told by the investigators that he would arrive in Morocco the next day. He said that Italian authorities rejected his request to be represented by an attorney and told him nothing further about the reasons for his detention and deportation. He could not retrieve his money or the other confiscated belongings. He refused to sign anything, including his consent to be sent back to Morocco.

At 5 a.m. the following day, November 19, Khaled was taken to Malpensa airport with five other Moroccans detained with him and whom he knew from Turin. Khaled, Azeddine Sadraoui, 25, and Nabil Hamrad, 21, were guarded by fourteen security personnel and placed at about 11:30 a.m. on an Alitalia flight to Casablanca. The other three Moroccans were put on a separate flight.

Upon arrival at Casablanca’s Mohamed V International Airport at around 2:00 p.m., Moroccan security officers told the six that they would be investigated. They were blindfolded, handcuffed, and driven in two cars for about forty-five minutes. Khaled described the place to which they were taken as looking like a prison. It had approximately ten cells. Each man was put in a solitary cell. He remained in his cell until around 9:00 pm. Then, he said,

The interrogation lasted for three hours. During the entire interrogation my eyes were covered. I heard the voices of three investigators. They asked me about my personal life and background, and how I immigrated to Italy. They asked me about names of people and if I belonged to any group or association, which I answered in the negative. I signed a statement without seeing it because I was forced to do so. I spent three days in solitary confinement, in a cell that was one and-a-half meters by two and-a-half meters in size. It had no window, just a small hole in the door.  Each day I was interrogated, but for a shorter time than the day before. In the first day of my interrogation one of the investigators hit me on the face. They threatened to send me to prison for fourteen years. They constantly cursed and insulted me. On November 22, after three days in their custody, I was released, along with Saïd Bouchraa and Mbarek Boutkayoud, two of the other five men.

Since Khaled’s release the Royal Gendarmerie summoned him once for a half-hour-long investigation in his hometown of Khourigba, during which he was asked questions about his personal life.

Three of the Moroccans who were deported with Khaled from Italy, Sadraoui, Hamrad, and Noureddine Lemor, were “missing” for about two months while in Moroccan custody. Casablanca-based attorney Moustafa al-Ramid, who represented their families, told Human Rights Watch that he inquired with the Moroccan authorities about the fate of the three men while they were unaccounted for, and that he also published an announcement in a newspaper. While the government refused to provide information, it did not deny holding the three citizens.129 The three men were released without any charges filed against them and after spending two months in incommunicado detention.

Khaled, who was in touch with the three men since their release, told Human Rights Watch that the security services kept them under tight surveillance and required them to report when they leave their residences.

Khaled’s testimony raises serious concerns with regard to the treatment of Moroccan citizens who are handed over by foreign countries. Under Moroccan law, judicial police must maintain a registry that includes the identity of all persons under garde à vue detention; the reason for the detention; the beginning and end of the garde à vue period; the period of investigation; the hours of rest permitted to the detainee, his physical health, and the food provided to him. When the judicial police decide to place a suspect under garde à vue detention, they must immediately inform his kin and note the means of notification in the registry.130

The security authorities who arrested Khaled at Casablanca airport did not exceed the legal period of time a person can be held under garde à vue detention. But the fact that he was not brought before a judge or prosecutor, and the way he was treated in custody, violate both national and international law with regard the treatment of persons in custody. Khaled was, according to his testimony, blindfolded at all times while interrogated. He was coerced to sign on documents he could not read. During the duration of his detention, he did not have access to a lawyer and to family members and was humiliated, beaten and verbally abused and threatened by his interrogators. The two-month incommunicado detention of Sadraoui, Hamrad, and Lemor constitutes, by virtue of its duration, a grave violation of international standards and of Moroccan law governing garde à vue detention.

In response to Human Rights Watch’s letter, which included some preliminary findings regarding these three Moroccans held incommunicado for two months, the ministry of justice stated simply that the information provided by the Human Rights Watch letter about this case was inadequate to provide an answer.  This response is not credible, given that a member of parliament had publicized the case, including the names of the three men at the time of their detention, in November 2003.

Mohamed Hassan Kittani

Mohamed Hassan Kittani is a well-known preacher and theologian from a prominent family in Rabat. The criminal procedures that led to his trial were significantly different from most cases presented above.  But the case is linked to the others by the violation of the right to a fair trial, most notably, the trial court’s refusal to summon for cross-examination witnesses whose testimony before the police and investigative judges in other cases was admitted into evidence and formed the basis for convicting the defendant.

Mohamed’s brother, Hamza Kittani, told Human Rights Watch that the judicial police and other security officials treated his brother respectfully, due to his religious and social status. In February 2003, Kittani was arrested for two days and investigated on suspicion of inciting violence. The report of the investigative judge refers to his sermons at a mosque in Salé mentioning Bosnia, Chechnya, and Afghanistan. During his investigation, Kittani denied the charges of incitement. The crown prosecutor ultimately decided to close the criminal investigation against him. But shortly after his release, an investigative judge of the Rabat Court of Appeals issued an arrest warrant for Kittani. He surrendered to the police on February 18, 2003, and was charged with organizing a criminal gang, being a member of the illegalSalafia Jihadia organization, disturbing the public order, conducting activities in an unauthorized association, and incitement to violence. Kittani remained in pre-trial custody and was denied release on bail. After the May 16 attacks in Casablanca, the investigative judge transferred Kittani’s criminal file to the Casablanca Court of Appeals, asserting that his case was connected to the Yousef Fikri group, an Islamist cell whose members had been convicted in July 2003 of murdering several Moroccans who violated the group’s notion of Islamic morality.

In July 2003, Kittani was tried for inciting violence and for being one of the spiritual leaders who inspired and encouraged the May 2003 suicide bombings. Kittani denied the accusations against him and even cited his own statement condemning the May 16, 2003 attacks that he had asked his family to release on his behalf days shortly after they occurred.131

Kittani’s lawyers denied the accusations against their client and asked the trial panel to summon twenty-five persons who were accused of terror charges in separate cases and whose testimonies the prosecution and the investigative judge had apparently relied upon to support the charges against Kittani.

The trial panel decided to postpone its decision on calling the prosecutor’s witnesses and instead ordered testimony from Kittani first. After hearing Kittani’s denial of all accusations against him and of any link to the twenty-five persons who allegedly mentioned his name in their statements, the panel of judges once again refused to call these men as witnesses, and asked the prosecution and the defense to present their arguments on the substance of the charges. Kittani’s defense lawyers decided to withdraw from the case, protesting that they could not properly defend their client without being able to summon defense witnesses and to cross-examine the witnesses for the prosecution. The court assigned Kittani a new lawyer despite his objections, and gave that lawyer only a few hours to prepare. On September 25, 2003, Kittani was convicted and sentenced to twenty years in prison.132

The court explained that its verdict was based on Article 288 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which allows a finding of guilt on the basis, inter alia, of statements made by other defendants taken by the judicial police in separate but related criminal proceedings, without the need to call those defendants and to hear their testimonies in court.133

In response to Human Rights Watch’s letter, the ministry of justice repeated very briefly the chronology of events in Kittani’s trial and noted that “with regard to the dismissal of the request to summon witnesses, the court has full authority to decide based on the circumstances of each case separately.”

[109] Human Rights Watch interview with Jamila Ben Taous, Casablanca, February 4, 2004.

[110] Human Rights Watch interview with advocate Taoufiq Moussaif, Rabat, February 3, 2004.

[111] Human Rights Watch interview with Fatima El-Kenti, Casablanca, February 4, 2004.

[112] Interview with Khdija Ali-Mousa, journalist with the Moroccan weekly Attajdid on February 7, 2004, Rabat. See also Attajdid newspaper, August 11, 2003, p. 3.  Attajdid is the organ of the Party for Justice and Development, a legal Islamist party.

[113] Amir means “commander” in Arabic, and also has acquired the meaning of “prince.”  It has come to be used to designate a person to whom allegiance is owed.

[114] Criminal Chamber of the Rabat Court of Appeals, Court File number: 22-2003-622, p. 15. 

[115] The public prosecutor asked the court to sentence Ben Taous to death. Ben Taous was acquitted by the Criminal Chamber of Rabat Court of Appeal of “the attempted premeditated murder and the attempted theft of monies.” Ruling published on August 8, 2003, Criminal Chamber, Casablanca Court of Appeals, Court File 22-2003-622, p. 13. 

[116] Human Rights Watch interview with Ibrahim Chikou, Casablanca, February 9, 2004.

[117] Human Rights Watch interview with attorney Taoufiq Moussaif, Rabat, February 3, 2004. The report of the judicial police states that Chikou was held in police custody from July 20 until July 25, 2003, and that his family had been notified about his custody.

[118] Decision of Judge Abd Al Qader Achentouf, Rabat Appellate Court, August 15, 2003, p.12.   

[119] Attorney Mohammed Sebbar of Rabat confirmed to Human Rights Watch by telephone on June 18, 2004, that he has a photocopy of the pages from the passport of attorney Kamal al-Alaoui that show he was outside Morocco on the date of Chikou’s appearance before the investigative judge.    

[120] Cash totaling about 730,000 dirhams (US$87,000) that belonged to Chikou’s business was also confiscated. Criminal Chamber of Rabat Court of Appeals, Court File number 22-03-687, ruling delivered on September 10, 2003.

[121] Human Rights Watch interview with Khadija er-Rtaoui, Casablanca, February 6, 2004. 

[122] Human Rights Watch interview with attorney al-Ftouhi Abd al-Haq, Casablanca, February 9, 2004.

[123] Human Rights Watch interview with Khadija Shafai, Casablanca, February 6, 2004.  

[124] Human Rights Watch interview with Guerrouani Bahidja, Casablanca, February 6, 2004.

[125] Human Rights Watch interview with Hassana Yazghi, Casablanca, February 6, 2004.

[126] Omar Al-Omari, “As-soultat al-magribiya toufrej ‘an al-moukhtataf Oussama Mohamed Boutaher,” [the Moroccan authorities release the abducted Oussama Mohammed Boutaher] Attajdid weekly, March 6, 2003, p.4.

[127] Di C. Mar, “In Sei Rinchiusi in una Caserma a Rabat: ‘Nessuna notizia dei nostri parenti espulsi,’” Corriere Della Sera, November 22, 2003. See also: Di Guido Olimpio, “Per gli espulsi il rischio delle celle maghrebine,” Corriere Della Sera, November 20, 2003; Di Fiorenza Sarzanini, "Espulsi sette islamici - legati ai terroristi,” Corriere Della Sera, November 19, 2003.

[128] Human Rights Watch interview with Issam Khaled, Casablanca, February 10, 2004. See also as-Sabah daily newspaper, November 21, 2003, and January 7, 2004.  

[129] Human Rights Watch interview with attorney Moustafa ar-Ramid, Casablanca, February 10, 2004. Al-Ramid is also a deputy in parliament and member of the Party for Justice and Development.

[130] Criminal Procedure Code, Article 67.

[131] In a 2002 press interview before his arrest, Kittani disavowed violence and repudiated two violent Islamist groups in Morocco, Takfir w’al-Hijra and Sirat al-Mustaqim. “Arab daily reports on arrest, sentencing of Islamic fundamentalists in Morocco,” BBC Monitoring, August 11, 2002, providing a translation of a report that appeared in al-Hayat daily, August 8, 2002.

[132] Casablanca Criminal Appellate Court, file 2003-5-907. See also, Dominique Pettit, « Terrorisme - la justice marocaine sévit contre les intégristes, »  Agence France-Presse, September 26, 2003.

[133] Ibid., p. 28.

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