Defendants allege police torture in Morocco

AP News
Posted: Sep 29, 2011 4:20 PM
Defendants allege police torture in Morocco

Defendants at a trial over a deadly cafe bombing at a Moroccan tourism destination denied the charges against them on Thursday.

The defendants told the judge that they had been tortured and threatened into confessing to being accomplices to the attack, which killed 17 people on April 28.

"I didn't read the deposition drawn up by the police, they made me sign it and I did so out of fear," said defendant Abdessamad Battar, a tall thin young man.

In the previous court session on Sept. 22, the chief suspect in the trial, Adel al-Othmani, also recanted his confession, which he said was made under duress.

Al-Othmani is charged with disguising himself as a tourist and planting a bomb in the cafe, which he then detonated remotely.

The blast tore through the Argana cafe in Marrakech's old town, mostly killing foreigners, including eight French tourists, as well as British, Swiss, Moroccan and Portuguese victims.

The seven other suspects were charged with being his accomplices or having knowledge of the attack beforehand.

Most of the defendants denied knowing or having any doings with al-Othmani. One, however, said he had spoken with him and knew that he had traveled to Turkey and Chechnya for jihad.

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Families of the victims have attended the last two sessions of the trial, which is also filled with families of the accused, making for a tense courtroom.

"We have confidence in Moroccan justice. We want light to be shed so that all those implicated are convicted," said Guillaume de Saint Marc, the president of the French Association for Victims of Terrorism.

The families of the defendants maintain their relatives have been framed.

The attack shook relatively peaceful Morocco, a staunch U.S. ally, which relies heavily on tourism.

The next session of the trial was set for Oct. 6.