60 face prosecution in W.Sahara after Morocco raid


RABAT (AFP) – A total of 60 people face prosecution, six of them in a military court, following a Moroccan raid on a camp settlement in Western Sahara that left at least 12 dead, prosecutors said Saturday.

A statement from the prosecution services in the territory’s main town of Laayoune said 67 people accused of crimes against the security forces and destruction of public and private property had been arrested, seven of whom had been cleared.

Of the others 54 had been sent for questioning by an examining magistrate, while six would appear before a military judge, the statement said.

These six include Annaama Asfari, 40, a supporter of the Polisario Front fighting for independence of the former Spanish possession which was annexed by Rabat in 1975.

The dawn raid on Monday using water cannon and helicopters on a camp outside Laayoune housing 12,000 people caused international concern, especially in Spain.

“Spain believes the circumstances of these events should be clarified urgently, and this is what we relayed to the Moroccan government,” Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez told a news conference Friday.

Spain also wanted to know what happened to a Spanish victim, Baby Hamadi Buyema, she said. Speaking in Alicante, his brother Lehmad Hamday Buyema said Moroccan police “brutally murdered” him in a car collision.

Moroccan officials say the toll was 12 dead, including 10 from their security forces.

But the Polisario Front said Moroccan forces killed dozens of people and wounded more than 4,500 while clearing the camp set up four weeks ago, apparently because of deteriorating living conditions locally.

Spain’s foreign minister said Madrid regretted the loss of human life and expressed the solidarity of the Spanish people with the victims and their relatives.

The Polisario, which fought a guerrilla war against the Moroccan presence until the United Nations brokered a ceasefire in 1991, wants a UN-organised referendum on self-determination, with independence as one of the options.

Morocco has so far rejected any proposal that goes beyond greater autonomy.

A third round of informal talks between the two sides on Western Sahara’s future held near New York ended Tuesday with both sides only agreeing to meet again in December.

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