Military trial for Saharawi advocating social and economic rights
Today, 24 Saharawi activists are expected to appear before a military tribunal in Morocco. All of them were arrested in the aftermath of the Gdeim Izik protest camp - an immense gathering of Saharawi civilians in the occupied territories, united in their demand to have their social and economic rights respected.
Having been adjourned three times already, the trial is expected to take off today, though 22 of the defendants have spent nearly two years in pre-trial custody. Moroccan law edicts that a defendant cannot be imprisonned for a period exceeding 12 months without trial.
The charges against the Saharawi detainees include belonging to an armed gang, use of violence against representatives of the public forces exercising their duties, causing death by use of violence to Moroccan agents (applied to 12 of the accused) and desecration of a corpse (2 of the accused). In addition, they are charged with undermining state security - which could lead to life-imprisonment.
Most of the defendants were arrested on the backdrop of what has come to be known as the Gdeim Izik protest camp. In the autumn of 2010, thousands of Saharawi civilians took part in a spontaneous act of protest against the social and economical discrimination they endure in their occupied land. They pitched their tents a couple of miles outside of El Aaiun, the Western Saharan capital, in a place called Gdeim Izik. After a few weeks, and a continuous influx of more and more protesters, the Moroccan military attacked the camp and burned it to the ground on 8 November 2010. In the days following the violent dismantlement, Morocco did not allow media, foreign observers or even the UN peace force for Western Sahara, MINURSO, to come near the camp site.
Morocco occupies the major part of its neighbouring country, Western Sahara. Entering into business deals with Moroccan companies or authorities in the occupied territories gives an impression of political legitimacy to the occupation. It also gives job opportunities to Moroccan settlers and income to the Moroccan government. Western Sahara Resource Watch demands foreign companies leave Western Sahara until a solution to the conflict is found.
Leading activists from Western Sahara are condemned to sentences ranging from 20 years to life imprisonment in connection to a mass protest in 2010 denouncing the Saharawi people’s social and economic marginalization in their occupied land; the Gdeim Izik protest camp.
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