By Karima Rhanem | Morocco TIMES 4/14/2006 | 3:30 pm
“We highly appreciate Morocco's support to the Palestinian cause. We also recognize the role King Mohammed VI can play in these "difficult circumstances" that the Palestinian people are undergoing,” the Palestinian Ambassador to Morocco, Hassan Abdurrahman told Morocco Times.
The Palestinian Ambassador hailed the visit of the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, to Morocco, qualifying it as successful, productive and highly positive.
Abdurrahman also praised the King's gesture in offering the new site of the Palestinian embassy in Rabat.
“The King's noble gesture is extremely important and shows Morocco's support (King, government, and people) to the Palestinians' struggle for the setting up of an independent Palestinian State,” said the ambassador.
The President of the Palestinian Authority, who arrived Wednesday in Morocco on an official visit, inaugurated on Thursday the new headquarters of the Palestinian embassy in Rabat.
Abbas said that “the new headquarters constitutes a strong hint for the creation of the Independent Palestinian State, which will certainly see the light of day with Morocco's precious support.”
“In Morocco, we feel like in Palestine, and we see the Palestinian cause is in the hearts of all Moroccans,” added Abbas.
The president of the Palestinian authority expressed his sincere thanks to HM King Mohammed VI, president of al-Quds Committee, for having offered the headquarters to the Palestinian Authority.
Earlier, Abou Mazen told the Moroccan TV channel, TVM, that Palestinians "rely on the importance of links binding Morocco to its Jewish citizens around the world" to achieve rapprochement between the Palestinian and Israeli peoples.
The Palestinian ambassador to Morocco also stressed that “Morocco, unlike any other country, has good contact with the Jewish community around the world, good relations with the west, particularly the USA.”
Referring to the leader of the Israeli Labour Party, Amir Peretz, the Palestinian diplomat said there are several Jewish leaders whose origins are from Morocco who can help build bridges between the Palestinians and the Israelis.”
The Israeli Labour Party leader, whose origin is from Morocco, was received on Feb. 17 by HM King Mohammed VI.
In a statement to the Moroccan Channel, the Palestinian president condemned Israel's rigid stance against Hamas, which democratically emerged victorious in last January's Palestinian elections.
Abbas called on the Israeli government to give up unilateral solutions that "only fuel the conflict," underlining the need for negotiations and for examining all options on the basis of the road map.
Abou Mazen, who held private talks on Wednesday with the Moroccan Sovereign, said “the decisive phase of the Palestinian question requires hearing the views of our brothers, particularly King Mohammed VI's”.
The Palestinian president received on Thursday, Moroccan Premier Driss Jettou to consider means to reinforce bilateral cooperation.
Discussions focused on the situation in the Palestinian territories, the atrocities that the Palestinian people undergo on a daily basis, and Morocco's unwavering support to Palestine.
Abou Mazin also received Speakers of the upper and lower houses of the Moroccan parliament, Mustapha Oukacha and Abdelwahed Radi, respectively.
The meetings, which were attended by member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization executive committee Yasser Abderabbou, and Palestinian ambassador in Rabat Hassan Abdurrahman, centered mainly on the political and financial situation and daily life in Palestine.
In the same vein, HM King Mohammed VI, president of Al-Quds Committee, has nominated Abdelkbir Alaoui M'Daghri as the director General (DG) of 'Bayt Mal Al-Quds' (Al-Quds' treasury) to succeed Abou Marouane, who was also Palestine's ambassador to Morocco.
This nomination comes as a response to the Palestinian Authority's wish to see a Moroccan at the head of this institution, created in 1997 at the initiative of the late Hassan II. Bayt Mal Al-Quds' will support the Palestinian people economically, socially and culturally.
Mahmoud Abbas also received leaders of the Moroccan political parties to discuss the situation of the Palestinians territories. The suspension of the European and American aids to the Palestinian Authority was particularly deplored by all party leaders.
By Karima Rhanem | Morocco TIMES 10/26/2005 | 12:07 am
Al-Qaida's branch in Iraq said on Tuesday it had abducted two Moroccan embassy employees who had gone missing on their way from Jordan to Baghdad. Meanwhile, three Moroccan diplomats visited Amman yesterday to undertake the necessary contacts and contribute to the search efforts underway to find the two employees.
"Your brothers in the military wing of al-Qaida Organization in Iraq have captured the two Moroccans working at the Moroccan government's embassy in Baghdad. Their interrogation is continuing," said an al-Qaida statement on a website, without providing further details.
The statement could not be verified, but it was signed by al-Qaida's spokesman in Iraq and posted on a main website used by insurgents.
The new claim came a day after al-Zarqawi's group claimed responsibility for a triple attack on Baghdad hotels that killed at least 44 people, according to a statement also posted on an Islamist website.
Earlier the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation said that the two employees of the Moroccan embassy in Iraq had disappeared since Oct. 20. Driver Abderrahim Boualam, 55, and assistant Abdelkrim El Mouhafidi, 49, both went last week to the Moroccan embassy in Jordan to get their salaries, but disappeared on their way back to Iraq, confirmed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Residing in Iraq since 1979, Boualem is married to an Iraqi and father of three children. He was recruited by the embassy as a driver in 2002. Al Mouhafidi has been in Iraq since 1982. He is also married to an Iraqi and has been employed in the embassy since 1993 as an assistant.
Amid speculation of a presumed kidnapping, the Moroccan embassy in Baghdad immediately launched an investigation in cooperation with the Iraqi authorities.
A former Iraqi diplomat told Morocco Times that the two employees had disappeared on the road between the Jordanian capital Amman and Baghdad, a road widely feared for repeated kidnappings carried out by ordinary criminals or insurgents.
He added that the best way to trace the fate of the two kidnapped Moroccans is to coordinate with US troops, since they are responsible for security in Iraq. The Iraqi diplomat also advised the Moroccan authorities to contact the leaders of the al-Dlim tribes, mainly Sheikh Amer Abdul-Jabbar Suleiman and Sheikh Abdelhamid el Kharbit, who live in the mostly desert province which borders Jordan to the west. The former diplomat said that securing contacts with these two leaders will help Morocco identify their kidnapping conditions.
Earlier, the Iraqi branch of al-Qaida also claimed responsibility for the kidnapping and killing of two Algerian diplomats, Ali Belaroussi, 62, and Azzedine Belkadi, 47, in Baghdad in July.
On July 7, the same group said it had killed the Egyptian chargé d'affaires in Baghdad, Ihab al-Sherif, who had been kidnapped five days earlier.
Guerrilla strikes have driven diplomats from the Iraqi capital, undermining the US-backed government's efforts to gain support among Arab countries.
By Karima Rhanem | Morocco TIMES 11/4/2005 | 3:40 pm
Political parties, trade unions and the civil society will hold on Sunday a national march in Casablanca to call for the release of the two kidnapped Moroccan employees of Rabat's embassy in Baghdad, reported MAP news agency.
The march is designed to denounce the decision of al-Qaida's branch in Iraq to kill the two Moroccan embassy employees abducted last October in the war-torn country.
Al-Zarqawi's militant group said on Thursday it had sentenced the two Moroccan embassy employees to death, after they had been put on trial. The al-Qaida cell accuses the two men of being followers of the US, which it often refers to as a 'despot' country.
The Moroccan government has denounced with the utmost vehemence their barbaric behaviour, which is contrary to the noble precepts of Islam and the fundamental values of humanity
A release of the Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation said that “the Moroccan people, in all its components, strongly stand against this explicit intention to execute the two Moroccan citizens, and it reiterates its appeal for their unconditional release.”
The two men, driver Abderrahim Boualem, 55, and maintenance employee Abdelkrim el-Mouhafidi, 49, are married to Iraqi women and have been living in Iraq for over 20 years, working at the Moroccan Embassy in Baghdad. They were abducted by the Iraq-based terrorist group steered by Jordanian-born Abou Moussab al-Zarqawi on Oct. 20, as they were on their way back from the Moroccan Embassy in Jordan, where they had picked up their salaries.
Morocco sent a mission to Amman on Oct. 25 “to contribute to the research efforts to find the two embassy employees”. The three-member delegation was headed by Mohamed Azeroual, director of Arab and Islamic Affairs at the Moroccan foreign ministry.
In a phone conversation with the Qatar-based al-Jazeera channel, el-Mouhafidi's blind and pregnant wife, Liqaa Abbas Mirza, begged al-Qaida group to free her husband before breaking into tears.
“I beg our mujahedeen brothers in Iraq, who are Muslims by the Islamic law and justice they live by, to release my husband and his friend. They haven't done anything. I am Iraqi,” she said.
The men's relatives, Moroccan politicians and newspapers have begged the group to spare their lives ahead of the Eid al-Fitr celebrated today in Morocco.
France also voiced on Thursday its total sympathy and solidarity with Morocco following al-Qaida's announcement. On Monday, the Iraqi Sunni Council of the Ulemas (religious scholars), made an appeal for the release of the two Moroccan employees. Earlier, a solidarity demonstration was organised in Rabat by the Istiqlal political party to call for their liberation.
In addition, Tayssir Alluni, al-Jazeera journalist imprisoned in Spain for alleged “cooperation” with al-Qaida, along with Haitam Manaa, a member of the International Committee for Defending Tayssir Alluni, have also called for the release of the two Moroccans.
Al-Qaeda tells foreign diplomats in Iraq to leave or face death
Al-Qaida renewed on Friday its threat to kill foreign envoys in Baghdad, a day after it said it would kill two Moroccan embassy hostages. It called on diplomats in the war-torn country to "pack their bags and leave" or face certain death, according to an Internet statement.
"We reiterate our warning to those who insist on maintaining the so-called diplomatic missions in Baghdad," said the statement, the authenticity of which could not be independently verified.
"Let them pack their bags and leave," said the statement signed by "the military wing of the al-Qaida Organisation in the Land of the Two Rivers," headed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
Baghdad's US-backed government has asked other Arab countries to restore full diplomatic relations with Iraq and said it would set up a protected zone for diplomats to live and work in safety. However, al-Qaida has repeatedly said it would treat these envoys as collaborators with "an infidel government".
The statement accused Washington's "small agents in the region," including the "treacherous Moroccan government" of maintaining diplomatic missions in Baghdad in order "to grant political and security backing that would provide legitimacy" to the Iraqi government.
The new warning was addressed "to those who still do not understand and challenge the will of the mujahedeen (fighters), and especially the missions of countries which have pledged to cooperate with the (Iraqi) apostate government installed by the invading Crusaders (US-led forces)," said the statement.
"We will not spare any effort in tracking them down and punishing them, whoever they are and wherever they are, just as we have done with their predecessors," it added.
The group stressed that they “do not make any difference between the head of the mission and the smallest employee as long as they have agreed to back the criminal government of the (Shiites) and their American master."
So far, over 200 foreigners and thousands of Iraqis have been kidnapped since the start of the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Last summer, al-Zarqawi's group abducted and killed two Algerian diplomats, as well as the Egyptian chargé d'affaires in Baghdad.
The Iraqi government has said the abduction and killing of foreign envoys was aimed at undermining its legitimacy and has urged world governments to remain resolute in the face of the dangers of being posted in Baghdad.
By Karima Rhanem | Morocco TIMES 1/15/2005 | 5:21 pm
“Tazmamart Cellule 10” is an autobiography written by Ahmed Marzouki, an officer cadet, who took part, “without intention”, in an abortive Coup d'Etat against King Hassan II of Morocco at his Royal Palace in Skhirat in 1971. The book describes the suffering of Ahmed Marzouki and his 58 colleagues during the 18 years they spent in a deadly detention prison called Tazmamart.
Two decades after his release, Marzouki decided to write his memories about his 18-year detention in Tazmamart prison, known as “Home of Death”. In his book, Ahmed Marzouki evokes everything about Tazmamart—18 years in the tiny concrete cell, the stifling heat and Siberian winters, the isolation and absence of light, the stench of disease and filth, scorpions and mosquitoes, miserable rations of bread, chickpeas and vermicelli, sadistic prison guards.
After highlighting the failure of the Skhirat coup attempt led by Lieutenant-Colonel M'hamed Ababou, Marzouki's narrative really begins with his ensuing trial and imprisonment. At first, he was sent to the military prison at Kenitra, where he and his colleagues received reasonable treatment. However, in August 1973, after the second coup attempt (1972), led by General Mohammed Oufkir, former Minister of Defence, Marzouki and his fellows were taken, at two in the morning, in secret and without any warning, to the newly constructed penal colony of Tazmamart, in the Moroccan desert. There, they were put in dark, windowless cells measuring three metres by two metres.
The book makes you fly with your imagination through the various powerful emotional moments Marzouki and his fellows had in this dark and dirty prison. Even your imagination could be blocked in front of the Hitchcockian scenes of horror witnessed in Tazmamart. Though the majority of the prisoners had received prison sentences between three and ten years (Marzouki received five), all were kept in these horrible conditions for 18 years. Their existence was denied by the State, and any communication with the outside world was impossible.
Of the 58 military officers and men implicated in the unsuccessful Coups d'Etat against the late King Hassan II, only Lt. Marzouki and 27 others survived Morocco's notorious desert prison, which is now closed. The rest had died as a result of official neglect, madness, and the absence of even minimal standards of medical care. Marzouki and his colleagues were once again able to see daylight upon their eventual release in 1991.
“We spent more than 18 years locked up in the dark, each of us in a narrow cell. Twenty nine of us were in each of the two buildings. The food we were given by the guards three times a day was insufficient to survive; we had five litres of water a day as drinking water, for washing ourselves and for cleaning the hole in the floor we had to relieve ourselves in. Our hair, our beards and our nails grew like those of wild animals. We suffered terribly from the cold of the winter in these mountainous and landlocked areas, and from the suffocating heat in the three summer months,” said Marzouki in his book.
The book also describes some of the most touching moment in Tazmamart, especially when Marzouki's friends began to die. Marzouki wrote, ironically, about the “improvement of conditions in Tazmamart”. Of course, it was neither for him nor for many others. Improvements were in favour of one of the detainees, Lieutenant M'barek Touil, who was married to an American.
The book indicates that Touil had met his wife Nancy on a Moroccan army training course in the United States. Nancy Touil refused to accept official stonewalling, eventually causing the American ambassador to intervene on her husband's behalf. More seriously, Marzouki is bitter at a system in which, he says, "the value of a Moroccan citizen compared to an American was similar to that of the dirham compared to the dollar."
The book also describes some aspects of Marzouki's life after his release: his meeting with his kids and relatives, especially his mother. Marzouki translated his book into Arabic, adding more data as he had consulted several friends for more information. In this book, he describes Morocco's darkest era, known as “Years of Lead”. This work remains among the country's best sellers.
Title: Cellule 10 Author: Ahmed Marzouki Language: French (also available in Arabic)
Jean victor Lovat to be summoned to appear before the judge
By Karima Rhanem | Morocco TIMES 3/18/2005 | 3:48 pm
Judge Jamal Sarhan decided to postpone Laâfoura and Slimani's case to April 29. Jean Victor Lovat, the Suisse investor, who sent a criminal complaint against the defendants in this case, is to be summoned among others to appear before the judge.
Officials from the ministry of Finance who served between 90 and 97 along with members of the Roches Noires Municipal Council will also be summoned.
The judge refused to grant bail to any of the defendants and will decide wether to summon the head of the budget Office and the judicial police after talking to witnesses in the next hearing.
Most defense laywers demanded bail or temporary release for their defendants, insisting on enough guarantees.
Mostapha Boudhar, Slimani's lawyer, highly criticized the media for biased information and for politicizing the story. He invited the press to be more objective.
“The case for us is very technical, not a political one as the media wants to show,” said Boudhar.
Enthusiastic, Slimani's lawyer questioned the Judge and the audience whether Jean Victor Lovat's money is considered “public money” and why there was no follow up as to why Lovat is asking for a civil right in this case?
“Why do we have to take what Lovat said for granted as if he was the bible? If Lovat is courageous enough, he should come to Morocco and appear before the Judge. So we do insist on his presence in this case,” said Boudhar.
Boudhar told the judge that the police investigators are not specialized in fraud and embezzlement cases. While studying the case, Boudhar said he noticed the presence of many mistakes and that many facts are misinterpreted.
The defendants' lawyers demanded to include the original documents in which the judicial police based their investigation.
Around 45 summoned witnesses including Omar El Bahraoui, the mayor of Rabat; Mohammed Kemou, Slimani's assistant in the Municipality; Abdelrezak Afilal, a political official, Driss Ettoulali, an official from the Ministry of Interior, and others, attended the trial, except Jean Victor Lovat, Mohammed Kachtani, Mohammed Belhabib, Abdellatif Rais, and Mohammed Jaber.
The court room was full of journalists, lawyers, witnesses and the defendants' relatives. The trial started around 9.00 am and ended at 12.30 pm.