Moroccan court upholds jail time for terrorism suspect

Reuters News

10/1/2012 8:00:39 PM - Reuters News

RABAT (Reuters) - A Moroccan appeal court on Monday upheld the conviction of a dual Belgian-Moroccan national for terrorism charges that included plotting to train militants in Algeria, in a case that revived allegations about the use of torture to extract confessions.

The court of appeal in Rabat's twin city, Sale, sentenced Ali Aarrass to 12 years in prison, reducing by three years an earlier sentence against him in November 2011, said Nicholas Cohen, one of his lawyers.

"The masquerade continues," Cohen told Reuters after attending the trial in Sale. "It took 90 minutes for the judges to examine our 40-page appeal report, to ignore it and give credit once more to a confession Aarrass has signed under unspeakable torture," he added.

Aarrass was found guilty of "affiliation to a terrorist organization and plotting to train Moroccan militants in Algeria", added Cohen. Aarrass' defense team plans to appeal the verdict in the Court of Cassation, the country's highest court of appeal.

The verdict comes days after the United Nations' special rapporteur said torture of people suspected of national security crimes in Morocco was systematic and cruel, and urged the country to quickly end ill treatment in its prisons and police detention centers.

Spanish authorities arrested Aarrass in 2008 after Morocco filed for his extradition to face terrorism charges. Madrid handed him over in late-2010 even though Spanish authorities had not found him to be a security threat after two years in detention.

The extradition went ahead despite demands from the United Nations Human Rights Council to Madrid to not enforce it until it could assess whether it would expose Aarrass to the risk of torture.

Human Rights Watch also criticized Aarrass' extradition which it said defied a "binding order from the Committee Against Torture in November to suspend his extradition while it examined the case".

Aarrass' case also reached the House of Commons in London when 18 house members signed in November a motion recognizing "the deep concern amongst human rights lawyers and experts on torture across Europe ... after a trial that appears to have ignored all due process, relied solely on torture evidence".

(Reporting By Souhail Karam; Editing by Sandra Maler)