04/09/2010

European Call: immediate release of Ali Aarrass.



 

AarrassA European Call for the immediate release of the Belgian-Moroccan Ali Aarrass. 



In February 2008, the Moroccan authorities arrested 35 people and announced that a terrorist network led by Abdelkader Belliraj had been dismantled.
Following the operation, other arrests took place in different European countries.

In Belgium, eleven people were arrested under an international arrestwarrant following a demand for their extradition from Morocco.

The 2008 Annual Report of the Belgian Security Services stated: ' In Belgium, on 27 November 2008, twelve searches have been made and eleven people placed under investigation in the framework of a criminal investigation by the federal public prosecutor against X for their participation on Belgian territory in activities and terrorist movements surrounding Belliraj.'

In Spain also, under the same international arrest warrants and Moroccanextradition requests, arrests took place.

On the 1st April 2008, the Belgian Moroccan and resident of Brussels, Ali Aaarass and the Spanish national Mohamed el Bay were arrested in Melilla, the Spanish enclave in Morocco. The newspaper Liberation (25 April 2008) described thereasons for their arrest: 'The two individuals are accused of sending weapons from Belgium into Moroccan territory. One of them of possible involvement in the events of Casablanca on 16 May 2003.' The Spanish section of Amnesty International(AI) wrote on their arrests: 'Ali Aarrass and Mohamed el Bay are wanted in Morocco in connection with terrorism and are also accused of being part of a terrorist network directed by the Belgian Moroccan foreign national Abdelkader Belliraj’.(AI statement 21 avril 2009). 

The extradition request : Belgium refuse... 

In the months that followed the arrests in Belgium and Spain, several court ruled on the extradition request against those arrested. The Appeal Court in Brussels pronounced against the extradition request, declaring that the request on the part of Morocco was clearly made for ‘political reasons’. The Belgium security services added: ' None of the detainees will definitely be extradited, as the elements communicated by the Moroccan authorities were not judged to be relevant.'(Annual Report 2008). 

...Spain accepts 

In Spain, the same process took another turn.  The Spanish justice system and the investigating judge Baltasar Garzon first of all established that there was NO foundation for the accusations against Ali Aarass. Amnesty International wrote: 'Ali Aarrass was the object of judicial investigation by the Audiencia Nacional (High Court in Spain with national competence) in 2006 for offences linked to terrorism but, on 16 March 2009, the official investigations were provisionally closed on the grounds of lack of evidence’ (AI statement 21 April 2009).

Next, a thunderbolt! In spite of the fact that Ali Aarrass was cleared, the Spanish court accepted the Moroccan extradition request. While he awaits his extradition, he will remain in a Spanish prison. Following this judgement, Ali Aarrass started a two-month hunger strike, claiming his innocence, protesting against his conditions of detention and opposing his extradition to Morocco. 'The decision to send Ali Aarass to Moroco is a contradiction’ said his lawyer Nayim at a pressconference on 25 March 2009, ‘It violates the legal principle that you cannot judge aperson two times for the same offence. How can it be that one can extradite an individual who had already been cleared in Spain? My client must be freed.' Quickly, a large solidarity movement has grown to oppose the extradition.  AI (Spain) has issued the following appeal, demanding that 'the authorities do not hand over either Ali Aarrass or Mohammed el Bay to Morocco, owing to the risk that they will be held in secret detention, subjected to torture and other cruel and degrading treatment as well as becoming subject of an unjust process.'

The president of Melilla, Juan Jose Imbroda, the local government ledby the PP, the Coalition of Melilla (CPM) the most important oppositionparty, the Islamic Commission of Melilla and the association'Inter-Culture'… all united and opposed to this extradition.

Abderraman Benyaha, the spokesperson for the Islamic Commission declared that the Spanish authorities would never accept this extradition 'if the accused was not a Muslim'.

In Belgium also, hundreds of people have mobilised against the extradition, participated in a demonstration in the centre of Brussels, or signed petitions to Spanish and Belgium ministers demanding the liberation of Ali Aarrass. 

 

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Saleyha Ahsan 

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