Gdeim Izik trial is political and based on torture says Sidahmed

I am a political prisoner, due to my peaceful struggle against the Moroccan colonisation of my native Western Sahara, Sidahmed Lemjayed stated in a testimony at the Gdeim Izik re-trial in Morocco yesterday. He denied all charges against him.

Yesterday, Sidahmed Lemjayed gave his testimony at the Gdeim Izik re-trial in Morocco, where he denied all charges against him of acts of “deadly violence” against Moroccan “public forces in the line of duty” during and after the violent Moroccan raid of the Saharawi Gdeim Izik protest camp. He also reiterated his claims that he was badly tortured during interrogation by Moroccan police.

The raid of the Gdeim Izik camp took place outside El Aaiun in Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara, where over 15.000 Saharawis had peacefully protested against discrimination and the Moroccan occupation in late-2010. During the raid, they were met by Moroccan rubber bullets, live ammunition, water cannons, tear gas and truncheons.

Political trial
Sidahmed Lemjayed was born in El Aaiun in Western Sahara in 1959, when Western Sahara was still a Spanish colony, and was 16 when Morocco invaded. He is the President of the Committee for the Protection of Natural Resources (CSPRON), a Saharawi organisation that lobbies the EU and reports on what CSPRON calls the plundering of Western Sahara’s fishing banks by Morocco and the EU.

At the trial yesterday, he said that the case against him and the other defendants was clearly political, and that a precondition for it to be fair was that it should be held in Western Sahara where the alleged offences took place, not in the countries’ colonial power, reported The Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara.

“I was born in Western Sahara which is occupied by Morocco. I am President of an organization that works to reveal the human rights violation in the occupied territories. I am here due to my political background,” Lemjayed told the court.

Brutally tortured
Sidahmed Lemjayed also told the court about the brutal torture he said he had been subjected to by the Moroccan authorities, in order to extract a confession to crimes he insists he did not commit.

“I was subject to every kind of torture. It’s impossible to explain what I went through. The torture is methodical to break us,” he said.

Lemjayed also told the court that he had showed the scars from his torture to the judge of the first trial, but that the judge had looked away and done nothing.

“Nobody helped me. The doctor himself stated that he couldn’t help me, because he was ‘under pressure’.

In 2015, CSPRON reported how Lemjayed had severe kidney, back, eye and foot pains due to the torture, but that he was not being given proper medication or treatment to ease this pain.

Harsh sentences
In the 2013 trial, Lemjayed and 20 other members of the Gdeim Izik Group were given sentences of between 20 years and life imprisonment at a Moroccan military court trial that Amnesty International deemed “grossly unfair.” Sidahmed was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Amnesty International also insisted that the claims of confessions obtained by torture must be independently investigated for the re-trial to be fair.

Morocco invaded Western Sahara in 1975 in violation of international law. Human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Freedom House regard the Moroccan regime in Western Sahara as one of the most repressive in the world, and the UN Special Rapporteur for Torture, Juan Mendez, reported “systematic patterns of acts of torture and ill-treatment during the detention and arrest process” in Western Sahara in 2013.

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