Wednesday, March 31, 2010

English Language Media Gives Us Nothing to Read On the Belliraj Trial

We usually post articles covering the latest news in Morocco. Unfortunately, the English language media isn't covering anything about the Belliraj trial that is going on in Morocco now. There are a few things in Arabic and French media outlets. The best document to address the major due process issues with the case was written by Human Rights Watch and posted on this blog a few months ago. Here is the link

A friend of mine who has been attending the trial sent me an email a few days ago with details of what was going on and all of the mishaps that in some other country might actually be cause for a mistrial. I am pasting below what my friend wrote then, the circumstances with the hunger-strikers changes daily, but the details about the case are still worth note.

An Email from a Moroccan Friend Regarding the Belliraj Trial

17 of the 34 detainees in the Belliraj case, including the 5 remaining political detainees have been on an open hunger strike since last Monday. Their demands are not that they be released or declared innocent. What they're asking for is a chance at a fair trial. The appeals process thus far has been an even bigger joke than the trial. Every single one of the defense's requests is turned down. We're not talking about big things like providing evidence or witnesses, we're not even there yet. We're still at the stage of requestion translations, little things.

I don't know if you heard the bombshell that was dropped a few weeks into the appeal. Apparently the people who drafted up the official document with the sentences were so distraught they forgot to put "In the Name of His Majesty.... " in the header, therebye, legally speaking, rendering the whole thing invalid. This could have slid unnoticed. But then, the document (now the defense all has copies of the original) was later falsified, ok let's say rectified, with the King's name on it. The defense now has both copies, proving flagrant falsification of documents.

The judge decided to disregard the whole thing.

This is one of the very small example of the violations of the right to a fair trial.

This is in addition to everything that preceded, including arrest and search without identification or warrants, torture, falsification of signed "confessions" (the detainees were made to sign 20 to 30 of what was supposed to be copies of the original, a 20 page document itself , without being given the chance to read through them. The contect was later changed and attached to the signed page).

Last Thursday, the defense team for the political detainees withdrew as a protest, and with it several other lawyers for the other prisoners. Yesterday Belliraj's lawyer announced his withdrawal too.

With all this, the judge is continuing the trial as though nothing out of the ordinary is going on. The trial was postponed form last Wednesday till Monday. The prisoners will be on their 8th day without food, one of them has already been taken to the hospital, there's no defense team... but the trial goes on.

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