Defense in Morocco bombing trial says no evidence

AP News
Posted: Oct 27, 2011 4:07 PM
Defense in Morocco bombing trial says no evidence

Defense lawyers in the trial over the bombing of a Moroccan cafe that killed 17 people, mostly tourists, said Thursday the prosecution's case lacks hard evidence.

The lawyers for the eight defendants said in Thursday's session most of the prosecution's case is based on confessions taken under duress that have since been recanted. The judge said he would issue a final verdict Friday.

On April 28, a remote controlled bomb exploded inside the Argana Cafe in Marrakech. The blast killed eight French tourists in addition to British, Swiss, Moroccan and Portuguese victims. Family members are attending the trial.

Police arrested Adel al-Othmani, whom they accused of dressing like a tourist and planting the bomb in the cafe, before setting it off with his mobile phone. The prosecution on Oct. 20 asked for the death penalty for him and his alleged accomplice Hakim Dah.

The six other defendants in the case are charged with having knowledge about the case but not informing authorities.

The defense, however, told the judge the case was not convincing.

"How is it that all the defendants confessed and then all denied their confessions in front of this court. Admit at least something is wrong," Abdelatif Mounib, the lawyer for al-Othmani, said to the judge.

Much of the case's evidence was not apparent from the court sessions. Witnesses, which court files say saw the chief suspect buying chemical materials to build the bomb, did not appear in court, despite defense requests.

Police tied al-Othmani to the bomb because they said they found a mobile phone SIM card registered to him in the rubble. The card was not shown in court nor were the registration papers.

"I have read and re-read the case and I find no evidence that would convict my client or any of the others for that matter," said Naima el-Guellaf, one of the defense lawyers.

Present for all the court sessions have been both the families of the defendants and those of the victims, often making for a tense atmosphere in the court.

Members of the victims families, who followed the court through interpreters organized by the French embassy, were often visibly annoyed at the defense lawyers' attempts to disprove the prosecution's case.

"There is a lot of evidence, I have read the dossier and I am totally convinced. There is no doubt," said Guillaume de Saint Marc, the president of the French Association for Victims of Terrorism. He added that hotel accommodation and flights for the family members have been paid for by the Moroccan government.

The attack shook relatively peaceful Morocco, a staunch U.S. ally that drew nearly 10 million tourists last year to its sandy beaches, desert and mountain landscapes, and historic sites.