Moroccan court bails three Western Sahara activists
AFP - A Moroccan court has granted bail to three of six Western Sahara activists who were arrested last October on their return from refugee camps at Tindouf in Algeria, their lawyer said Tuesday. Picture: Rachid Sghayer leaving prison
"The appeals court in Sale has accepted the bail demand of three of these six activists, after it was rejected last Thursday by the military court," Mohammed Sebbar said.
All six men were arrested in the coastal town of Casablanca after their trip to Tindouf, which is the headquarters of the Polisario Front movement that wants independence of the Western Sahara from Morocco.
The military tribunal in Rabat accused the six of "treason and intelligence with the enemy", but none of them have yet been tried.
Those who got bail were Saleh Bouih, Rachid Sghir and Yahdih Terroussi, Sebbar said.
The three others, including a militant leader, Ali Salem Tamek, "will still await the decision of the military tribunal, which will decide whether or not to pursue them," he added.
The activists began a hunger strike on March 18 but stopped it at the end of April, while urging Moroccan authorities to fix a swift date for their trial or to set them free.
According to Sebbar, "the fact of granting them bail is a positive decision by the tribunal. We hope that this measure will be extended to the three others."
The Western Sahara was annexed by Morocco after Spanish colonists left in 1975, and Rabat has since maintained that it is an integral part of Moroccan territory.
The Polisario guerilla movement, notably supported by Algeria across the eastern border, demands a referendum on self-determination, under the aegis of the United Nations, with three options: to be part of Morocco, to be independent or to enjoy self-government under Moroccan sovereignty.
Morocco has rejected any notion of independence and proposes a plan for considerable autonomy, but under Moroccan sovereignty.
Africa's last colony
Since 1975, three quarters of the Western Sahara territory has been illegally occupied by Morocco. The original population lives divided between those suffering human rights abuses under the Moroccan occupation and those living in exile in Algerian refugee camps. For more than 40 years, the Saharawi await the fulfilment of their legitimate right to self-determination.