Moroccan court postpones trial of seven Sahrawis

CASABLANCA, Morocco — The trial of seven Western Sahara activists accused of threatening Morocco’s security was adjourned Friday until December 17 after a heated row broke out in court, legal sources said.

“The judge proclaimed the adjournment to December 17 just after the start of the trial of the seven Sahrawi militants,” one of the sources said from the courtroom in Casablanca.

The Sahrawis were arrested in October 2009 at Casablanca airport on their return from Tindouf, in southern Algeria, a base of the Polisario Front independence movement.

They were accused of “endangering the internal security” of the north African kingdom.

Three are in detention and the four others — including a woman, Dakcha Lachguer — have been out on bail since May.

An AFP correspondent said that shouting broke out inside the courtroom between the Sahrawis and a group of Moroccan lawyers.

The independence activists shouted “Long live the Sahrawi people” and “Long live self-determination”, while the lawyers cried “The Sahara is Moroccan.”

“The conditions for holding a trial were not met because of these altercations,” said Abdelaziz Nouaydi, the president of the association Adala (Justice), who attended the proceedings.

A group of Spanish journalists were also attacked as they tried to take pictures in the courtroom, according to Eduardo Marin, a reporter for Spain’s Cadena Sur radio.

“Members of the Moroccan police then intervened, conducted us outside and asked us politely to erase the photos,” Marin added.

Amnesty International on Friday called on “Moroccan authorities to free the three Sahrawi activists still in detention in Morocco.”

Initially, a military court was to try the activists “for spying”, but it declared itself incompetent on September 25 and the case was transferred to the Casablanca criminal court.

A former Spanish colony, the Western Sahara was annexed by Morocco in 1975. The Polisario Front, backed by Algeria, wants a referendum under the aegis of the United Nations on attachment to Morocco, independence or self-determination under Moroccan sovereignty.

Morocco has proposed broad autonomy for the territory under its sovereignty and rejects any notion of independence.

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