Archive for the ‘morocco’ Category

Additional Arrests Made In Taxi Driver Murder; Five Suspects Now Charged

December 3, 2008

 

Newport News police have made two additional arrests in the murder of cab driver Mohammed Laktami.  Antonio Lamar Williams, 23, and Christopher Deangelo Holloman, 20, were arrested at the Americans Best Value Inn in Portsmouth on Monday night around 8:30.

Both individuals each have been charged with murder, robbery, conspiracy, and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. 

The recent arrests now brings the total of individuals charged to five. 20 year-old Trevor Rashad Futrell, Shannon Denise Drewry, 20, and a 17 year-old male were all arrested on Sunday, November 30. All face several charges including murder and conspiracy.

Police say this crime was not a crime of opportunity but a planned event.  The five individuals involved initially planned to rob a delivery driver from a Chinese restaurant and a call was actually placed, however the business was closed.  A decision was made to then rob a Taxi driver.  Two of the males physically conducted the robbery, but after the robbery and murder, the money was split between all involved.

Mohammed Laktami was shot and killed on Sunday, November 22 while conducting business as a North End cab driver on Marshall Avenue in Newport News. Mr. Laktami was a legal resident alien from Morocco working in Virginia to support his family that were still in Morocco. He had been a cab driver for two months.

 

Al Jazeera lawyers quit Rabat trial

July 5, 2008

By Ahmed El Amraoui in Rabat

The trial of Hassan Rachidi, Al Jazeera’s bureau chief in Morocco, has been adjourned, after the defence team walked out when their pleas were brushed aside by the presiding judge.

The marathon second court session opened, following a three-day recess, at the Rabat First Instance Court at 9am (0800GMT) on Friday in the presence of up to 50 defence attorneys who volunteered to defend Al Jazeera.

After 11 hours of stormy debate, and the collective walk out of the defence team, the trial was adjourned until July 11.

The judge rejected all the defence’s pleas and the team quit over a “lack of fair trial conditions”, accusing the judge of biased and dismissing the trial as political.

The presiding judge and the attorney general then addressed a few questions to Rachidi, who pleaded not guilty and insisted that he did his job as a professional journalist and provided both sides of the story in question.

The session was then adjourned at around 10pm (2100GMT).

Defence walkout

The defence attorneys began their argument by calling the charges brought against Rachidi void since the press code, under which Al Jazeera’s bureau chief was prosecuted, can be applicable only on the director of publication of the media organisation concerned.

“Since Rachidi is not the person in charge of the editorial policy of Al Jazeera and not the person to decide which story to be published or not, we call on your honour to drop all charges against our client,” Khalid Soufiani, leader of the defence team argued.

The lawyers submitted to the court a copy of Rachidi’s confiscated press accreditation, issued by the Moroccan communication ministry, which states the profession of Rachidi as reporter.

“As Mr Rachidi, according to the Moroccan official document, is a reporter and not the person in charge of publication in Al Jazeera, we say that this trial is illegal” another lawyer said.

The lawyers also criticised the main document submitted by the general prosecutor to the court – a news report that was run earlier by Morocco’s official news agency MAP.

But the judge rejected all defence arguments as unfounded.

He also turned down a petition to call for witnesses that included ministers, senior civilian and military officials to testify before the court on the events in the southern port city of Sidi Ifni that brought Rachidi to court.

They also demanded those in charge of the Reuters news agency and the Moroccan daily Al Ahdath – which both reported that people were killed in the Sidi Ifni protests – as well as heads of various human rights groups, stand before the judge as witnesses.

The defence’s cross-examination of a CD submitted by the general prosecutor was also turned down.

Court disruption

Earlier in the day, the proceedings were disrupted by Ali Lmrabet, a Moroccan journalist, who was sentenced by the same judge in 2003 to three years in prison and was suspended from practicing journalism in Morocco for 10 years.

“I am here to remind you Mohammed El-Alaoui, the presiding judge. My name is Ali Lmrabet, the journalist that you have suspended from practicing the profession of journalism in Morocco for 10 years that I am actually doing my job as a journalist in spite of your order. And you can do nothing about it,” Lmrabet shouted before he was dragged by the police out of the court room.

Ahmed Snousi, a Moroccan satirist, was also ejected from the court room for reciting slogans in support of Lmrabet, who spent seven months in jail before he was a granted a pardon by the king.

Lmrabet is now a reporter of the Spanish newspaper El Mondo.

Strained relations

Rachidi is charged with reporting that people were killed in clashes with security forces in the southwestern port city of Sidi Ifni on June 7 during a protest over poverty and rising unemployment.

Moroccan authorities have rejected as “false” and “absurd” reports of deaths, saying that 48 people were injured, including 28 police officers, but that no deaths occurred.

Although Al Jazeera reported the government’s denial, the Rabat chief prosecutor’s office ordered an investigation to determine how the false information was disseminated.

Rachidi was interrogated by the judiciary police for four hours and was charged on June 14 with publishing false information and conspiracy.

Minutes later, the Moroccan communication ministry withdrew his media accreditation.

Rachidi’s trial is the latest in a series of incidents that have seen the channel come into conflict with the kingdom’s authorities.

In May, Morocco suspended Al Jazeera’s daily television news bulletin covering the Maghreb countries – Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Mauritania – from its studios in the Moroccan capital.

The decision, according to Khalid Naciri, the Moroccan communication minister and a spokesman for the government, was due to technical and legal issues.

Rachidi is facing prosecution under Article 42 of the country’s press code.

“The press code requires that two conditions be satisfied in order to convict someone for publishing false information under Article 42,” Soufiani, the lead defence lawyer, told Al Jazeera.

“The first condition is the publication of false information with the intention of bad faith and, second, that the publication disturbs the public order.”

If convicted, Rachidi could be sentenced to a prison term of between one and 12 months and a fine of up to $13,750.

Contract for Khalifa medical complex in Morocco signed

July 4, 2008
A contract for building the Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed specialised medical complex in Casablanca, Morocco, was signed Wednesday between Abu Dhabi Municipality and French Jacob France Engineering Consultancy Group.

The US$ 100 million health facility will be built by a donation offered by UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
Director General of Abu Dhabi Municipality Juma Al Junaibi said the French consultant will undertake the works of architecture, design and supervision of the 65,000 square metre health facility where the built up area will be around 40,000 square metres.
”The centre will be completed in 30 months,”he said, adding that the project will also include commercial buildings whose revenues will be used to run the medical city to ensure high performance, operation and maintenance.
Construction work is expected to commence by year end.
A high level delegation from the Municipality has visited Morocco recently to select the location for the project in the city of Anfa, a future centre for urban expansions.
In addition to the specialised wards, the city will house a nursing school, a central laboratory, a radiology centre and a VIPs ward.

© WAM

‘No death or rape cases documented’ in Sidi Ifni, FIDH chairman

June 30, 2008
Rabat, June 28 – “No death or rape cases were documented” in the southern city of Sidi Ifni, where recent clashes between police forces and demonstrators resulted in the injury of 20 demonstrators and 28 law enforcement officers, Chairman of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Souhayr Belhassen, affirmed on Friday.

 

    The statement was made at a press conference held in Rabat to present the results of FIDH head’s visit to Morocco and the 2007 FIDH report.

    Belhassen underlined, however, that investigations in Sidi Ifni revealed “torture cases”, a practice that, chairman of the Moroccan organization of Human Rights, Amina Bouayach said, “was not systematic.”

    “No cases of disappearance have been recorded during these events,” Bouayach noted.

    The Sidi Ifni incident took place when an unspecified number of youths had been, since May 30, besieging the port, preventing 89 trucks loaded with 800 tons of fish from leaving the facility, which prompted authorities to intervene.

    On the morrow of the June 7 clashes, the Moroccan House of Representatives (Lower House) announced the setting up of a parliamentary commission to probe the incident “following the contradictory information and rumors circulated about this incident.”

    The Qatari TV station, Al Jazeera, had reported that six to ten people died following the intervention of the police forces, whereas Brahim Sballil, a member of the Moroccan Human Rights Center (CMDH) reiterated “false accusations” concerning the Sidi Ifni events, citing cases of death, disappearance, and rape.

    Commenting on what happened before the Parliament, Interior Minister, Chakib Benmoussa made it clear that a total of 182 people were arrested, the majority of whom were released except for 10 people who were brought before justice.

Nine terrorists escape from Moroccan prison

April 7, 2008
  • guardian.co.uk,
  • Monday April 7 2008
  • Nine people convicted of offences linked to suicide terrorist attacks in Morocco in 2003 have escaped from prison.

    The country’s ministry of justice said a search was under way for the prisoners, who were found to be missing from the Kenitra prison, north of Rabat, this morning.

    The Islamist prisoner rights advocacy group Ennassir said the escape coincided with the beginning of a one-day hunger strike by about 1,000 Islamist prisoners at several prisons across Morocco.

    The bombings in Casablanca five years ago killed 45 people, including the 12 perpetrators. The five simultaneous bombings – at a Spanish restaurant, the Belgian consulate, a Jewish community centre, a cemetery and a hotel – injured a further 100 people.

    No one claimed responsibility for the May attacks, though Moroccan authorities believed they were the work of the banned Islamist group Salafia Jihadia, which security officials have accused of being linked to al-Qaida.

    Thousands were arrested in the immediate aftermath of the attack as authorities cracked down on suspected militants. About 700 people were put on trial for offences linked to the bombings. Four men were sentenced to death for their involvement in the attacks.

    The alleged mastermind, Abdelhaq Bentassir, died in custody, prompting an outraged response from civil rights groups.

    Most of the suspected bombers came from a Casablanca shantytown, with the attacks highlighting the lack of opportunities for poor Casablanca residents.

    The attacks were seen as a huge blow to the reputation of Morocco, one of the most liberal countries in the Arab world which relies heavily on revenues from western tourists.

    Husa Gains a Foothold in Morocco

    March 22, 2008

    481.jpgThe hotel chain Husa has recently signed an agreement with H. Partners, an investment fund created by Attijariwafa Bank and Banque Centrale Populaire, two local banks, with the aim of opening a hotel in Marrakech in 2010.

    Through the agreement, the Spanish-owned hotel chain will control 15% of the Palmeraie Hotel, with a total investment of two million euros. With an overall cost of 14 million euros, the hotel will have 200 rooms and will be marketed both as an event and holiday hotel. Husa Hotels will also be managing the new complex, located in one of Marrakech’s neighbourhoods with the greatest number of tourist attractions.

    This project is part of the chain’s expansion plan in Africa, where it already runs a hotel in Marrakech, and owns two other in El Cairo and Giza, the latter scheduled to be opened later this year.

    FOUAD MOURTADA FREE

    March 19, 2008

    fou.jpgFouad Mourtada, the Moroccan facebooker who was setenced  to three years in prison for creating a fake profile of the king’s brother on Facebook, has been freed .King Mohammed VI pardonned him on the occasion of AID al mawlid….

    Tourism projects propel Morocco’s success

    February 29, 2008

    As Morocco’s national tourism strategy, Vision 2010, begins to unfold and a whole new set of infrastructure improvements comes into play, the future is looking brighter than ever in Morocco. Investors choosing luxury property within any of the six King’s Resort developments, backed by HRH King Mohammed VI himself, are buying into a rock-solid and fast-growing tourist market.

    Morocco, the exotic land made famous by Hollywood’s “Casablanca”, welcomes tourists who seek that unmistakable Arabic culture, along with outstanding natural beauty where they can enjoy a wide variety of attractions and activities. It is easy to see why the likes of American millionaire Malcolm Forbes, founder of ‘Fortune’ magazine, amongst others, began to invest in the area in the 1970s. Today the palace Forbes purchased stands as the ‘Forbes Museum’ and holds an impressive collection of 120,000 lead soldiers as well as many other curiosities, right in the heart of Tangier.

    Today Morocco is seeing unprecedented growth, both in its infrastructure and visitor numbers, with tourism demand increasing by 6% in 2006, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). The World Travel & Tourism Council predicts the country’s tourism will continue growing at a rate of 4% per annum, in real terms, between 2008 and 2017.

    The World Travel and Tourism Council concurs that Morocco’s market share of worldwide travel and tourism is generally increasing, the main market participants being the French (figures exclude Moroccan national residents abroad), although there has also been a colossal increase of British visitors to the country. Tourists from the United Kingdom were up 29% in 2007 compared with 2006, totaling 418,606 visitors to the country.

    Much of Morocco’s strong performance in recent times has been attributed to increased foreign investment. The country has been particularly successful at attracting FDI from Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, such as the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. A number of mega projects, part of the Vision 2010, are due to come into fruition within the next 5 to10 years and now, according to the UNWTO, “Efforts are being made to ensure that airline capacity into the country, including low cost airline services, increases in line with the growth in accommodation.”

    Sara Romera, product analyst at propertyshowrooms.com, explains why the country is becoming so tantalizing: “Morocco is still a unique location for property investors and offers the opportunity to purchase property early in an emerging market at very favorable prices. What is unique about the market for property in Morocco is the sense of security for investors: with tourism already improving at a fast rate and buy-to-let investors reporting 85% occupancy rates in prime locations during the high season, Morocco offers a strong arena in which to invest in property.”

    Property development may be booming in this North African country, but location continues to be key, particularly when buying property as an investment. Resorts in the Mediterranean are expected to see high rental returns, particularly as they are easier to access than some more southerly locations, and offer better climate and sea conditions. Projects such as Mediterrania Saidia’s “The Greens” and “The Fairways” are situated in what is to become one of Morocco’s most prestigious and ground-breaking of Mediterranean tourist destinations, being the first of the King’s Resorts to be launched. The complex caters for those in search of relaxation, tranquillity and sophistication, all set within the convenience of a purpose-built resort. The fact that the entire complex is backed by the King adds a welcome element of investor confidence and expectation, making Mediterrania Saidia arguably one of the best investment opportunities available in Morocco today.

    moroccan cut off penis in public

    January 6, 2008

    A young moroccan man cut off his penis with knife in public because his girl friend did not come to spend the night with him…The man was hurried to the nearest hospital but the doctors’  attempt to re-attach the organ failed….

    Morocco set to create centers to cure women batterers, Minister.

    January 6, 2008

    Morocco is set to create special centers to cure women batterers and provide them with proper treatment, Moroccan Minister of Social Development, Family and Solidarity, Nouzha Skalli, said on Wednesday. Speaking at the House of Representatives’ question time on violence against women, Ms. Skalli noted that women batterers are people who need a psychological treatment to help correct their behavior.

    Violence against women does not only have a heavy cost in terms of health and economy but a negative impact on children and on the family as well, she went on, recalling that since the launch of a free crisis hotline for women, some 17,511 acts of violence against women were documented by crisis centers as of January 2007. These acts were perpetrated by 10,053 women batterers, 78.8 of whom are husbands, the minister added, noting that some 10,053 violence-related complaints have also been made, with an average of 838 complaints a month.

    Touching on the legal provisions in favor of women that are meant to uproot violence, Ms. Skalli said a bill is being prepared to toughen these provisions and curb violence against women. Over the past years, Morocco has adopted a set of measures to slash forms of violence against women, launched crisis centers for battered women and conducted awareness campaigns. The latest campaign was launched on November 30 to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Dubbed the fifth National Campaign to eliminate violence against women, it revolved around “Mobilizing Youths to fight Violence against Women”.

    Morocco jails 50 Islamists for terror plots

    January 6, 2008

    arton484.jpg

               Hassan Khattab, the Emir of Ansar el Mehdi

    by Zakia Abdennebi

    SALE, Morocco (Reuters) – A Moroccan court convicted 50 radical Islamists on Friday of plotting bombings and robberies and jailed them for up to 25 years, court officials and lawyers said.

    They were members of the Ansar el Mehdi “Mehdi Partisans” group, and shortly after they were rounded up in 2006 the authorities seized explosives and laboratory equipment.

    The government said the group planned to declare ‘holy war’ in northeast Morocco, had recruited members of the police and the military and planned to rob banks and convoys and use the money to buy more explosives.

    Their leader, Hassan Khattab, was jailed for 25 years and the 49 others were sentenced to between two and 20 years in prison, including four women who got five-year jail terms.

    All the defendants pleaded not guilty. One man who stood trial with the others was acquitted.

    Khattab smiled to display his indifference as the judge read out the sentences.

    “We did nothing to get such sentences. We left our children alone and hungry,” said Abdesalam Debibeh, who was sentenced to eight years in prison.

    The court found the defendants guilty of plotting to bomb government buildings and tourism landmarks in Casablanca and other cities and belonging to an illegal group, collecting money to fund terrorism and undermining state security and public order.

    During the trial Khattab broke his silence only to deny the charges against him, attack the Moroccan government as an “apostate dictatorship” and assail its ally, the United States.

    “I say to (U.S. President) Bush ‘we are coming to attack you,'” he said. “One day we will manage to wipe you out.”

    Moroccan police have broken up more than 50 cells and arrested some 3,000 people since 2003, when suicide bombings killed 45 people in Casablanca.

    ON ALERT

    Morocco and the neighbouring Maghreb countries have been on alert for attacks since Al Qaeda’s North Africa wing stepped up suicide bombings and other attackss last year.

    They fear a broad upsurge in violence in the region after Al Qaeda’s Organisation in the Islamic Maghreb said it wanted to link up radical groups in the region and use it as a base for bombings of European targets.

    Algeria has suffered a series of deadly bombings since early last year, including a December 11 attack that killed 37 people.

    In Morocco, six Islamists blew themselves up in Casablanca last year, killing one other person.

    On Friday, the Dakar Rally that goes through Morocco and Mauritania was cancelled for the first time in its 30-year history after threats from what organisers called “terrorist organisations”.

    In Mauritania, three attackers suspected of links to Al Qaeda gunned down four French tourists and wounded a fifth on Christmas Eve.

    Gunmen killed three soldiers three days later in a remote area in northern Mauritania, near the border with Algeria and Morocco’s disputed Western Sahara territory.

    Soldiers’ Stories: Spc. Lamia Lahlou, Remembering 911

    January 6, 2008

    On September 11th, 2002, a 15-year old Moroccan-American girl found herself inside the PATH train station — set beneath the World Trade Center — and just as United Airlines flight 175 crashed into the south tower and exploded. Now, 6 years later, Army Specialist Lamia Lahlou, shares her remarkable story about how she turned tragedy into a commitment to serve her county.

    Two boats with 68 migrants reach Spain’s Canary Islands

    January 1, 2008

    The wave of illegal African immigration to Spain’s Canary Islands continued into 2008 as two boats carrying 68 migrants arrived Tuesday on the archipelago off the coast of Morocco, officials said.

    A cayuco, or wooden fishing boat, carrying 40 people, including two minors, arrived on Tenerife, the largest of the seven islands that make up the archipelago, at around 3:30 am (0230 GMT), a marime rescue official said.

    It was towed by a maritime rescue services ship to the port of Los Cristianos after being spotted in the waters off the island, he said.

    A second ship with 28 people on board arrived on the island of Lanzarote some five hours later, an official said. It was towed by a police patrol boat to Arrecife, the capital of the Canary Islands.

    During the first 11 months of 2007, a total of 17,038 illegal immigrants arrived in Spain on 704 boats, the Europa Press news agency reported Tuesday citing official government figures. Most arrived on the Canary Islands.

    By comparison during the same period of 2006 a total of 37,647 clandestine migrants arrived in Spain on 1,111 boats, the agency said.

    The government credits the fall in the number of arrivals to stepped up patrols of the coast.

    Authorities fear many of the thousands of Africans who make the perilous journey towards Spanish soil each year die of thirst or exposure on the risky voyages but there is no way of knowing exactly how many have died.

    New report addresses causes of sex tourism in Morocco

    January 1, 2008

    The International Coalition for Responsible and Respectful Tourism published a report early this month on the resurgence of Morocco’s sex tourism industry, uncovering numerous causes of the phenomenon and proposing solutions.

    The report, compiled by coalition goodwill ambassador Khalid Semmouni, indicates close links between sex tourism, globalisation and the opening of borders, adding that people are attracted by what they perceived as exotic.

    Poverty and exclusion are also among the causes, and have contributed to the prevalence of prostitution in Morocco.

    Other causes cited by the report include the violation of children’s socio-economic rights; a lack of public education on sex and human rights, especially for children; the disintegration of family structures; domestic abuse and a lack of responsibility on the part of schools.

    The report also mentioned the lenience of Morocco’s legislation on child rape and the lack of a national action plan to protect children from violence.

    It states that sex tourism is in violation of existing international agreements which Morocco has ratified, namely the 1949 Convention against the sexual exploitation of women, CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women) and the Convention on Child Rights.

    The report also points to legal gaps and loopholes and proposes that the Penal Code be strengthened to more effectively counter the sexual abuse of women and children.

    The solutions put forward include the adoption of adapted legislation to bolster children’s protections, the use of media to inform the public and alert families to the dangers of prostitution and the sex trade’s impact on society, and also the organisation of trainings for members of the judiciary to guarantee faster responses to young people’s needs.

    Semmouni told Magharebia that “this problem also exists in other Arab countries, but it is much more severe in Morocco, since this country is open to the West and also due to its geographical position.” Semmouni proposed that all tourists found guilty of paedophilia in Morocco should be banned from returning. He also advocated the creation of a vice squad to monitor tourist activity from a distance and intervene where necessary.

    Najat Anwar, president of the NGO “Don’t Touch My Child”, told Magharebia: “We need to establish a partnership with international NGOs and authorities such as ECPAT and INTERPOL to detect, condemn and prevent harm to Moroccan children by criminal tourists who travel to our country to satisfy their desires.” She added that “at the national level, our association has found that foreign paedophiles no longer enjoy the ‘tourist immunity’ they once had, and are just as liable to be punished as Moroccan paedophiles.”

    Despite far-reaching government efforts, including the creation of tourism police in Marrakesh in 1994 and the conviction of over 40 tourists for paedophilia and prostitution offences since 2001, human rights activists in the country insist that Morocco still has a long way to go to eradicate the problem.

    King Hamad visits Morocco

    December 23, 2007

    lpic2.jpgRABAT: His Majesty King Hamad arrived in Rabat yesterday on a private visit to Morocco, during which he will meet King Mohammed VI.

    He was received at Rabat airport by Prince Mawlai Rasheed, Rabat Governor Hassan Al Omrani, Bahrain’s Ambassador to Morocco Shaikh Khalid bin Salman bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, Moroccan officials and Bahrain embassy staff.

    Senegal recalls ambassador from Morocco over W. Sahara spat: report

    December 23, 2007

    jacques_baudin.png

     jacques baudin

    DAKAR (AFP) — Senegal recalled its ambassador from Morocco “for consultations” Saturday in a dispute over the disputed Western Sahara, media reports said.

    Morocco pulled its ambassador out of Dakar this week in protest at comments about Western Sahara by a Senegalese opposition member.

    “The recall of Morocco’s ambassador to Senegal was an unfriendly gesture to the Senegalese people,” said a statement by the Senegalese prime minister’s office, cited by local media.

    “Senegal, while waiting for clarification, recalled its ambassador from Morocco for consultations,” the statement said.

    Morocco on Wednesday recalled its ambassador for three days after a senior Senegalese opposition party member appeared to back separatists fighting Moroccan rule in Western Sahara.

    Former Senegalese minister Jacques Baudin lauded Polisario Front rebels who are fighting Moroccan forces in the disputed northwest African region.

    According to Rabat, the comments were “contrary to the secular bonds which exist between the two countries”.

    Sources close to the government expressed surprised at Rabat’s actions since Baudin’s party is not part of the government.

    Parents Want Justice For Son After Arrest

    December 15, 2007

    Published: December 15, 2007

    TAMPA – Hamou Moussaoui and Anissa Zekkari came to the United States from Morocco on Wednesday, proud parents, eagerly anticipating their son’s graduation from the University of South Florida with three degrees.

    On Thursday morning, their world turned upside down. They were thrust, they said, into hell.

    “Instead of having an engineer, we have a prisoner,” Hamou Moussaoui said Friday. He said he feels the $300,000 he spent on his son’s education slipping through his fingers.

    His son, Karim, 28, was arrested, charged under what his attorney says is a little-used law that makes it a federal crime for someone in this country on a student visa to possess a firearm. The charge – punishable by up to 10 years in prison – arose from a visit to a Tampa firing range authorities say Karim Moussaoui made in July with friends who were later arrested.

    The friends, Youssef Megahed and Ahmed Mohamed, both Egyptian nationals, were charged in August with transporting explosives after their car was pulled over in South Carolina. Mohamed also was accused of trying to help terrorists by posting a video on YouTube in which he demonstrated how to use a remote-controlled toy to detonate a bomb.

    For the Moussaoui family, association with that case and media stories linking Karim to explosives are horrifying.

    All he did was pose for a picture with an unloaded gun, they say. “A souvenir picture turned out to be a crime,” said Zekkari, speaking through an interpreter hired by The Tampa Tribune. She said she fainted when she heard of her son’s arrest, and has not slept since.

    Karim Moussaoui, smiling confidently about 24 hours after his release from federal custody, said he’s not worried about what’s going to happen to him. “I’m definitely confident justice will take place,” he said, “since I only took a little souvenir, since we don’t have guns in our country, and I have the best lawyer in Tampa, Mr. Stephen Crawford.”

    He said he was up late Wednesday night studying for his last exam. He finally crawled into bed at 4 a.m. to rest up before the test, scheduled for 1 p.m. Thursday.

    At 6 a.m., he said, 10 FBI agents knocked on his door. They put guns to his roommates’ heads, but not to his.

    “They got me some clothes, sneakers and a shirt,” he said. “It was a peaceful arrest. I had no clue what was going on … They just took me out.”

    He said he was taken to the federal courthouse downtown, fingerprinted, photographed and otherwise processed. He was interviewed by a probation officer about his background. Then his attorney, Crawford, showed up.

    “I feel I was being treated as subhuman, since they have animal rights,” Karim Moussaoui said. “I felt criminalized without being a criminal.”

    Family Expects Justice To Be Served

    The family was interviewed in Crawford’s office Friday afternoon. Under the attorney’s direction, they would not discuss the specifics of the charges.

    Like their son, however, the parents said they trust the right thing will happen. “We’re always optimistic,” Zekkari said. “Our son didn’t do anything wrong.”

    “There is justice,” Hamou Moussaoui said. “We’re in a country of justice and democracy.”

    Karim Moussaoui had planned on returning to Morocco to take over his father’s business after his graduation today, but now he is being forced to remain in Florida until his legal case is decided.

    About to lose the right to live in his dorm room, he must find an apartment with a telephone so federal probation officers can monitor his whereabouts and he can be fitted with an electronic ankle bracelet.

    Two of his three degrees are in jeopardy, he said; he is negotiating with the university about making up the missed exam. “I missed a final in a class where I have all 100s,” he said.

    Without the exam, he will get a D, which will keep him from getting two degrees, he said. It would be “the one D in my life.”

    He said his degrees in computer science and computer information systems are in jeopardy, but he expects he will graduate with at least a degree in computer engineering.

    His parents had planned to leave Sunday. Now they’re unsure what they will do. Probably, they said, one of them will remain behind while the other returns home.

    The family business, Cabinet D’ Expertises Hamou Moussaoui, provides engineering expertise and consulting on construction and testifying in court. Hamou Moussaoui said he built the business from nothing more than 25 years and now has 12 experts who work in Casablanca, Marrakesh, England and Senegal.

    They live comfortably in Casablanca with a villa and a 3 1/2 -acre farm, they said. Zekkari works as a schools inspector, stressing the importance of education to their children, who also include two daughters.

    Zekkari said she’s involved with an organization called “Morocco Feminists International,” which defends women against violence.

    ‘He Has Nothing To Do With It’

    In addition to education, the parents said, they stressed “good behavior” to their son. “General respect, politeness” were the values passed on.

    They said Karim loves the United States and pushed to come here to study.

    “He doesn’t like when other people say bad things about America,” Hamou Moussaoui said of his son.

    He said Karim calls the U.S. Constitution an example to the world. In America, he said, “everything is spacious” and people have “a beautiful life.”

    Hamou Moussaoui said his son never left his side growing up. “I wanted to teach him the right way.”

    The parents said they learned of their son’s arrest when two FBI agents came to their hotel Wednesday morning.

    “I felt paralyzed,” Hamou Moussaoui said. “I couldn’t move.”

    The couple didn’t know where to go, what to do. They didn’t even have a rental car. They called Crawford, who they said calmed them down, assuring them he would do his best to have their son released that day.

    None of this makes any sense, they said.

    “My son doesn’t talk about politics,” Hamou Moussaoui said. “Politics doesn’t do anything for him. Terrorism – he has nothing to do with it. He has one goal – his education and being successful.”

    Bosnia: Divided We Stand

    December 15, 2007

    najlae.jpgBY Najlae Benmbarek

    and Durrell Dawson

    “Divided We Stand,” FRONTLINE/World’s latest story from Bosnia-Herzegovina, is a departure from our past Bosnia coverage. As always it starts by recalling the tragedy of the civil war in the 1990s, but this time we focus on young people, a new post-war generation looking for ways to move on.

    The unofficial capital of Herzegovina, the ancient Ottoman city of Mostar lies along the Neretva River and is the fifth-largest city in the country.

    The word Mostar means “old bridge,” but that very bridge, the town’s most famous symbol, was blown up during the war, along with the city’s long history of religious tolerance and integration. Before the war, children from different ethnic groups went to school together. Today, they are mostly segregated. Even though the bridge has been rebuilt, Mostar is still very much divided, with Muslim Bosnians living on one side and Christian Croats on the other.

    Najlae Benmbarek and Durrell Dawson traveled to Bosnia to find out how communities are working to overcome the divisions of the past. They made a surprising discvovery. The youth of Mostar had joined forces to commission a statue of a hero — someone agreeable to them all. When churches, mosques, bridges — even the airport — were rebuilt in this war-torn region, all created controversy based on whether the place was historically Croat, Muslim or Serb. The statue commissioned by these young people stands as the only monument erected in postwar Bosnia without an uproar.

    The mastermind behind the statue idea was Serb writer Veselin Gatalo, who told Benmbarek that the choice they made symbolized universal justice and reminded many in the group of their childhood.

    For those of you who don’t recall the news coverage around the unlikely hero’s unveiling, we will let the video itself reveal their choice.

    Joelle Jaffe
    Associate Interactive Producer

    Stealth campaign underway to name late Moroccan king as righteous gentile

    December 15, 2007

    By Marc Perelman, The Forward

    RABAT, MOROCCO – Morocco and Israel have a longstanding relationship veiled in secrecy, one involving quiet diplomatic initiatives and discreet intelligence cooperation. So it is only fitting that it is a stealth campaign that is pushing to have a former king of Morocco become the first Arab admitted to Yad Vashem’s Righteous Among the Nations, which recognizes non-Jews who risked their lives to rescue Jews during the Holocaust.

    No formal request has been submitted to have Mohammed V, the wartime king, admitted to Yad Vashem. Promoters of the initiative in Morocco and in Israel are reluctant to talk about it publicly and are working behind the scenes.

    “There is no formal demand; this is an exploratory phase,” said Serge Berdugo, who heads Morocco’s Jewish community and is a Moroccan ambassador-at-large. “All Moroccan Jews here and in Israel dream about it, but it is a long and difficult process.”
    Robert Satloff, executive director of the pro-Israel Washington Institute for Near East Policy, prompted the latest round of activity on the issue. His book “Among the Righteous: Lost Stories From the Holocaust’s Long Reach Into Arab Lands,” published last year, describes the antisemitic persecutions suffered by Jews in Arab countries during World War II and sheds new light on the positive role played by Mohammed V.

    After the book appeared, Berdugo quietly inquired with Yad Vashem about the possibility of honoring the late king. He received the endorsement of Israel’s president, Shimon Peres, and that of a number of Israeli politicians of Moroccan origin.

    In addition to history, there are some more immediate motivations behind the campaign. The obvious symbol of having an Arab – especially an Arab leader – among the Righteous at a time of turmoil in the Middle East is seen as sending a signal that relations between Israel and the Arab world are slowly improving. The trend is further illustrated by a July meeting in Paris between then-Moroccan foreign minister Mohamed Benaissa and his Israeli counterpart, Tzipi Livni. Morocco also attended the Annapolis, Md., conference last month and is likely to be among the first of those Arab countries without formal ties to Israel to take steps toward normalization if a genuine peace process takes hold.

    For Jerusalem, the Yad Vashem move would show its determination to normalize ties with Arab countries. And Morocco could project an image of moderation at a time when it is courting Washington’s support on Western Sahara, a disputed territory that Morocco claims, but also one that a separatist group supported by Algeria would like to become independent. After years of paralysis, Morocco recently unveiled an autonomy proposal for the region and won cautious support from the Bush administration after years of America’s neutrality on the issue.

    Morocco has no official diplomatic relationship with Israel, though it does not observe the Arab League boycott and was one of the few Arab countries to establish low-level diplomatic ties with Israel during the Oslo peace process.

    Over the years, Morocco has, on several occasions, helped the Israeli-Arab process through discreet diplomatic initiatives, such as facilitating the Israeli-Egyptian breakthrough of 1977 and hosting Israeli leaders. This started with a historic visit by Shimon Peres in 1986, at a time when there was no peace process. In addition, the intelligence services of both countries have enjoyed a good relationship over the years, including Israeli tips of plots against the royal family and negotiations over the exodus to Israel of hundreds of thousands of Moroccan Jews, according to books published in recent years. Both the diplomatic and the security ties, which are the exclusive purview of the king and his inner circle, are rarely discussed in Morocco, given the strong public pro-Palestinian sentiment.

    Whether Mohammed V, who died in 1961, will become a member of the Righteous remains uncertain, given Yad Vashem’s strict eligibility rules. Among the 22,000 Righteous, some 70 are Muslims, most of whom are from Turkey and the Balkans. There are no Arabs among them, according to Yad Vashem spokeswoman Estee Yaari, who added that no formal request had been submitted for the late Moroccan monarch.

    The trickiest criterion is determining whether the late king actually risked his life to save Jews during the rule of the pro-Nazi French authorities from mid-1940 to November 1942, when American troops arrived and changed the balance of power. Citing testimonies of the king’s quiet resistance campaign against the French antisemitic edicts, Berdugo claims that the king had indeed done so.

    When the Vichy regime extended its anti-Jewish laws to Morocco in October 1940, the king maneuvered to limit their implementation. A 1941 telegram from the French foreign ministry, uncovered in the mid-1980s, discussed the worsening tensions between the French authorities and the king because of Mohammed V’s unwillingness to distinguish among his subjects. Some Moroccan Jews even claim that he asked the French authorities to bring him yellow stars for his family to wear. Some observers have expressed doubt over the episode, which illustrates the near-mythical aura of the king among Moroccan Jews – the vast majority of whom immigrated to Israel and Europe after Israel’s independence and the 1967 war.

    Richard Prasquier, Yad Vashem’s representative in France, believes that Mohammed V did not risk his life. Prasquier also said that he was never confronted with an official request that they be deported to Nazi death camps. Others suspect that diplomatic calculations are the main impetus behind the campaign.

    “It’s a nice political coup,” said Ahmed Benchemsi, editor of the leading independent weekly Tel Quel. The magazine published a story a few months ago about the existence of forced labor camps in Morocco for some 2,000 Jews who had fled Europe during World War II.

    At the time described in Tel Quel’s story, the French authorities were in control of Morocco and oversaw the camps’ administration, leaving little power to the king. But the article raised doubts over his willingness to protect Jews beyond Moroccan ones.

    Satloff, who declined comment for this article, recounts in “Among the Righteous” the hardship of those far-flung camps, but he absolves the king of responsibility.

    Satloff has a ready explanation for the fact that no Arabs have made it to Yad Vashem: a collective unwillingness to be associated with the Holocaust, which is perceived in Arab countries as the direct impetus for the creation of Israel.

    In order to break this taboo and to respond to the spread of Holocaust denial in the Arab world, Satloff himself submitted a formal request to Yad Vashem early this year for Khaled Abd al-Wahab, a Tunisian aristocrat who hid a Jewish family from the Nazis, based on testimony from a family member. In contrast to Morocco, Tunisia was under direct Nazi rule at the time, which could bolster al-Wahab’s chances. The museum said his application was under consideration.

    Morocco: Overturn Verdicts for Homosexual Conduct

    December 13, 2007

    (New York, December 12, 2007) – The criminal verdicts in Morocco against six men sentenced to prison for homosexual conduct should be set aside and the men released, Human Rights Watch said today.

    The court of first instance in Ksar el-Kbir, a small city about 120 kilometers south of Tangiers, convicted the men on December 10 of violating article 489 of Morocco’s penal code, which criminalizes “lewd or unnatural acts with an individual of the same sex.” According to lawyers for the defendants, the prosecution failed to present any evidence that the men actually had engaged in the prohibited conduct in the first place.  
     
    “These men are behind bars for private acts between consenting adults that no government has any business criminalizing in the first place,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The men’s rights to privacy and freedom of expression have been violated, and the court has convicted them without apparent evidence; they should be set free.”  
     
    The men have been in jail since they were first arrested by the police between November 23 and 25, 2007, after a video circulated online – including on YouTube – purporting to show a private party, allegedly including the men, taking place in Ksar el-Kbir on November 18. Press reports claimed the party was a “gay marriage.” Following the arrests, hundreds of men and women marched through the streets of Ksar el-Kbir, denouncing the men’s alleged actions and calling for their punishment.  
     
    Abdelaziz Nouaydi, a Rabat lawyer on the men’s defense team, said that the judge convicted the men even though the prosecution presented no evidence showing that an act violating Article 489 had occurred and offered only the video as evidence. The video showed no indications of sexual activity. The men all pleaded innocent to offenses under the article, which has a statute of limitation of five years. At the trial, the judge refused to release the men provisionally pending their appeals.  
     
    Criminalizing consensual, adult homosexual conduct violates human rights protection in international law. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Morocco has ratified, bars interference with the right to privacy. The United Nations Human Rights Committee has condemned laws against consensual homosexual conduct as violations of the ICCPR. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has held that arrests for consensual homosexual conduct are, by definition, human rights violations.  
     
    In the preamble to its constitution, Morocco “subscribes to the principles, rights, and obligations” consequent on its membership in organizations including the United Nations “and reaffirms its attachment to human rights as they are universally recognized.”  
     
    The court sentenced three defendants to six months in prison and two defendants to four months; it sentenced the sixth, who it also convicted of the unauthorized sale of alcohol, to 10 months. The defendants range in age from 20 to 61 years old.  
    In a private letter to Moroccan Justice Minister Abdelwahed Radi before the trial, Human Rights Watch urged the government to drop the charges and release the men. The letter also urged authorities to ensure the men’s physical safety, in light of the large and menacing mass demonstrations that took place against them.  
     
    “In applying an unjust law in an unjust fashion, the Ksar el-Kbir court has fueled the forces of intolerance in Morocco,” said Whitson. “If Morocco truly aspires to be a regional leader on human rights, it should lead the way in decriminalizing homosexual conduct.”  
     
    Article 489 of the Moroccan Penal Code punishes homosexual conduct with sentences between six months and three years in prison and fines of 120 to 1,200 dirhams (US $15 to $150).  

    Ramiz narrates ordeals of his illegal journey to Morocco

    December 13, 2007

    Ramiz Uddin, an unfortunate Bangladeshi, finally returned to home after walking hundreds of miles for 26 days on foreign lands. After facing untold sufferings on way to Spain, his destination to change the luck that he could not reach. Finally he decided to return home and went to Bangladesh Embassy at Raba, Morocco.

    Narrating his long ordeals Ramiz told a press conference at Police Headquarters yesterday that married but unemployed he first went to Dubai in 2004. Failing to change his luck there his father-in-law in Dubai sent him to Spain at the fag end of May this year.

    “Having no valid passport and visa I’ve crossed Niger, Algeria and reached Morocco. There I walked at least 400kms from Oujda and reached Raba in 26 days,” said 30-year old Ramiz lamenting his ill luck. He hails from Bara Saleswar village under Biyanibazar in Sylhet district.

    He said he met with a Nigerian at Oujda, a town bordering Morocco. He took him to a hotel where 14 illegal Bangladeshi immigrants were staying. “We all walked through the Sahara desert to reach Algeria. On way we were caught in sandstorm. I fell unconscious while others were stuck up under the sands. We were extremely hungry and passed the days without food and water.”

    During their risky journey, Ramiz said they spent 5 days in a forest of Morocco when a mafia group beat them and took away the belongings.

    Inspector General of Police Noor Mohammad present at the press conference said during his visit to Morocco for the Interpol meeting in November last year the Bangladesh embassy informed him about Ramiz.

    In his own initiative the IGP arranged the return of Ramiz with the help of Nigerian representative of International Organization of Migration. Ramiz flew back home this morning.

    Morocco: Newspaper Forced to Alter Front Page for Fear of Censorship

    December 11, 2007

    Reporters Without Borders has expressed its concern when the printers of the “Journal Hebdomadaire” forced its management to change its front page photo and others inside for fear the edition would be seized if it was printed as it was.

    Managing editor, Ali Amar, changed photos illustrating a feature on a work by two Moroccan artists – inspired by French artist Gustave Courbet’s painting “Origin of the world” – which had been withdrawn from an exhibition in Mexico at the request of the Iranian ambassador, who found it “prejudicial to the Muslim religion”.

    Amar told Reporters Without Borders that the printer had been convinced that the Moroccan authorities would not allow the edition in question, on 30 November 2007, to go on sale.

    “The Moroccan state did not have to intervene in this censorship decision. It is currently benefiting from effects of pressure it has put on printers for several months,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said. “They are now becoming censors by proxy and are over-doing it to avoid any further confrontation with the authorities.”

    The Moroccan authorities in August 2007 cordoned off the premises of the printers Idéale for several days and destroyed copies of the weekly “Tel Quel“, on the orders of the interior minister Chakib Benmoussa. A member of the printers’ management was questioned by police in connection with legal proceedings against the paper’s editor. At a recent meeting with print company executives the minister warned them to be “vigilant” (see IFEX alerts of 7 August 2007, 6 January 2006, 31 October and 17 August 2005).

     

    The Third Root – Morocco Video Teaser

    December 11, 2007

    Excerpts from The Third Root – Morocco Documentary. A story that travels through Mexico, Spain, and Morocco with Mexican Guitarist, Camilo Nu. Camilo performs with musicians along the way as he searches the roots of Mexican music.

    http://www.brightcove.tv/title.jsp?title=1336779311

    Dutch Greefa to deliver two sorting machines to Kabbage Souss, Morocco

    December 11, 2007

    Tholen – Last week, Greefa, a Dutch producer of packaging and sorting machines, signed a contract in Morocco. Greefa will deliver two sorting machines of the Greefa SmartSort type to the Moroccan company Tariq Kabbage. Henk Pagrach  of Greefa signed the contract with Tariq Kabbage, main shareholder of Domaines Kabbage and Station Kabbage Souss, president of citrus exporter GPA and mayor of the Moroccan municipality of Agadir.

    The two sorting machines will deliver an input capacity of 40 MT of tangerines per hour, according to Henk Pagrach. “This makes Station Kabbage Souss the largest sorting and packing station for citrus fruit on the African continent. We are very proud to have our name on those machines,” says Henk Pagrach.

    greefa-3.jpggreefa-2.jpggreefa-1.jpg

    It hasn’t been simple though. “We have been talking about this new line for two years. Many drawings have been made in order to optimize the packing line according to the customer’s wishes,” tells Henk Pagrach of Greefa. Finally we came to an agreement.

    The cooperation between Greefa and Kabbage started about four years ago. “Four years ago, we delivered a sorting line for oranges and tangerines to Station Kabbage Souss, whose fruit is marketed by GPA,” says Henk Pagrach. Juvisa, Greefa’s Spanish partner, will supply the input and packaging systems for the new sorting machines.

    Banyan Tree enters Morocco

    December 11, 2007

    abc.jpgBanyan Tree brand Angsana has moved into Morocco as it continues to open more hotels outside of its traditional Asian market.

    The luxury hotel company officially opened five out of seven of its Riad Collection around Marrakech. All of the Riads have between five and eight rooms and have been restored in Moroccan style.

    Banyan Tree executive chairman Ho Kwon Ping decided to open up Riads in Morocco after visiting the city two years ago.

    He said: “It is in Riads you get a real sense of Morocco and Marrakech. It is not a luxury hotel experience but we believe it is the heart and soul of Morocco, from the sense of smell to the colours. However you get the quality of service you would get from any Banyan Tree or Angsana Hotel.

    Banyan Tree and Angsana is continuing to expand with more properties set to open in Dubai, Barbados, Morocco, Thailand , Mexico and Bali. There are also plans to move into European destinations such as Turkey.

    kelly ranson

    Gay marriage in Ksar lekbir,Morocco once again

    December 11, 2007

     we were accused by a  moroccan newspaper , al ahdath, of inventing the story of the gay marriage in Ksar lekbir, Morocco and that we wrote about something we did not know about….This newspaper ,and all the francophone moroccan press,has maintained that such marriage has never taken  place and that some islamists have invented the whole story in order to harm the reputation of Morocco…..my ass.!…Morocco’s reputation is safe ,like it or not…..and it can’t be harmed by an article or two….so stop behaving the ostrich way…..

    i have just one question: if this is not a gay marriage, what is it then?

    updated: the bride,Fouad, was sentenced to ten months’ imprisonment….fouadcopy.jpg

                                    the bride, Ms FOUAD

    Up to ten-month prison terms for ‘sexual perverts’

    Tangiers, Dec. 11 – Six people were sentenced Monday evening to prison terms ranging from 4 to 10 months in what is considered as the most publicized case of homosexuality in Morocco.

        The main suspect, Fouad F got ten months and was fined MAD 1000 (about USD 130) on charges of sexual perversion and illegal sale of alcohol. He was found not guilty of the charge of “public offence to morals”.

       Two other people were sentenced to 6 months imprisonment and two to 4 months.

       The six defendants were arrested in the city of Ksar El-Kebir in northern Morocco, following participation in a November 19 ceremony thought to be a gay wedding.

    Their lawyers criticized the verdict insisting on the lack of evidence and the absence of “flagrante delicto” and argued that their clients are victims of an over-publicized case.
     
      A preliminary investigation, quoted by the Minister of the Interior himself, showed that the gathering was a ceremony of the mystic Gnawa sect, practiced by descendants of African slaves. While some participants were dressed in women’s clothing, the ceremony’s organizer claimed that he only wanted to re-enact a vision in which a woman asked him to dress like her and offer a gift to the saint Sayyed Al-Madloum.

         Speaking before the Interior, Decentralization and Infrastructure Committee of the House of Representatives, Chakib Benmoussa insisted that “regardless of any media and political exploitation of this event, it is worth mentioning that the preliminary investigations showed this ceremony was linked to pure charlatanism-related rituals.”

       The incident sparked uproar in the conservative city of Ksar El-Kebir where over 600 people took to the street, chanting slogans condemning what they thought to be a gay wedding.

    no more comment………..

    Hey big spender: the £3m spree that landed a Saudi prince in a London court

    December 9, 2007

    saudi128x256.jpg

     Saudi ambassador Prince Mohammed bin Nawwaf bin Abdul Aziz. Photograph: Martin Argles

    David Leigh and Rob Evans
    Friday November 16, 2007
    The Guardian

    It is a remarkable shopping list by any standards. And it has landed the Saudi ambassador to Britain with a possible £3m debt, and the embarrassment of having allegations about the ostentatious spending habits of the royal family laid bare. Bills he is claimed to have run up on an array of luxury amusements include two top-of-the-range Chevrolet 4x4s, a thermal night vision kit for his Hummer H2, dozens of designer watches and jewels, a selection of handguns and two Arab karaoke machines. One takeaway meal came to almost $800 (£391). And then there is the $2,500 item on a trip to a hotel in Casablanca that reads: “Girls: party night 5”.

    These, and scores of others, are detailed in documents filed to the high court in a claim against the ambassador, Prince Mohammed bin Nawwaf bin Abdul Aziz, a nephew of King Abdullah. Last month, he was ordered to pay more than £3m to his family’s former private secretary, Walid El Hage, a Briton of Lebanese extraction and a former director of an Arab bookshop in the UK, who spent many years as confidante to the ambassador and his father. He claims he spent the money on their behalf.

    The 54-year-old ambassador ignored the court proceedings, and had judgment awarded against him by default. But he now says he is hoping for an “amicable settlement”. A meeting with the El Hage camp has been arranged for next week and the prince says he is seeking to have the court judgment set aside.

    El Hage’s lawyer, Ian Bloom, says his client, who is abroad, declines to comment. But those close to him say he believes the ambassador’s diplomatic immunity is uncertain, because the alleged debts were incurred before he took office.

    In a normal case, a debtor’s property could be seized. But under the Vienna convention, other diplomats and their London families currently get away with activities from shoplifting to refusing to pay the congestion charge.

    According to the documents filed by El Hage, he picked up bills as the prince went on trips to Rome, Vienna, Casablanca and Paris in 2004 and 2005, immediately before his posting to London.

    As well as conventional, if large, bills for hotels, cars and security guards, the lists include charges for a variety of the world’s most sophisticated brand-name items.

    There is a list of 43 luxury watches allegedly bought in just 18 months at a total cost of at least £350,000. They included a Patek Philippe for £23,000 and two Jaeger Le Coultres for £17,500 and £16,700.

    In January 2004, it is alleged, the prince left Riyadh for a European trip. He bought cutlery from specialist Paris shops Curty & Fils and Laguiole for €22, 990 (£16,439).

    His family also allegedly invested in the must-have female fashion item – a crocodile Birkin bag listed at €18,770. Outfits from the couturiers Lanvin allegedly cost a further €150,000.

    A Beretta pistol (€6,761) also figures on the list, along with a Cartier watch (€27,000) and antique guns, shotgun, and swords (€66,000).

    Back in Saudi, it is claimed the prince spent £1,200 on three ivory tusks with amber and turquoise, and a red and gold crystal set for £9,000. A fleet of Yamaha Grizzly, and Big Bear quad bikes set him back £13,000.

    But this was a small sum compared with the $183,000 which went on purchase and freight charges from the US for five highly sophisticated Raytheon thermal night vision cameras, to be fitted on his H2 Humvee US-army derivative vehicle. A large US pick-up, a Chevrolet Avalanche, is listed as “full options $39,250”.

    A specialist off-road rally car, the Wildcat African Raid, built by a UK firm in Derbyshire, on a Land-Rover chassis is listed as £94,000.

    In March, the prince went on a further trip to Austria and on to Casablanca. There was an alleged visit to the famous Swarovski shop on Vienna’s Kartnerstrasse of which it is said “almost any self-respecting Viennese lady has a Swarovski necklace, bracelet, or pair of earrings”. The total bill was said to be $25,000.

    In Morocco, items read: “hotel extra suite expenses, rooms for girls etc $1,465 … girls party night 5 $2,500… Moroccan sweets arrangement to take away $250 … HRH cash in hand $20,000”.

    One striking purchase listed is an “ST Dupont lighter limited edition” for $1,769, which carries a mother-of-pearl and platinum rendering of the design of the Taj Mahal.

    Back in Jeddah, the prince is said to have bought many Persian rugs, more vehicles and watches and gifts of amber. As well as some low-calorie sweets, he also allegedly splashed out on the import of a suite of exotic pets, (with cages) including parrots, mynah birds and a Dr No-style white Persian chinchilla cat.

    A large selection of guns also figure on the alleged invoices These include two Czech CZ75D and CZ97B pistols, a French Famas assault rifle and a Micro-Uzi machine gun of Israeli origin. The Austrian Glock 18C “special tactical weapon” is described in one advertisement as “particularly popular with VIP security personnel. Nothing stops an assassination attempt faster than a hail of 9mm bullets”.

    According to the court claims, the ambassador’s luggage of choice is Delsey and Zero Halliburton aluminium suitcases, whilst in cigars, his preferences run to the latest offering from Cuba – the Cohiba Siglo VI “Canonazo” brand. His alternative choice is alleged to be the Lusitanias Double Corona, described as “a truly great cigar” with “cedar wood, leather and cinnamon”.

    The PR grandee Lord Bell last night issued a statement on the ambassador’s behalf. It said that El Hage had worked for the prince’s father for 27 years until he suffered a stroke in 2002. “The nature of the relationship subsequently changed.” Lawyers in Saudi Arabia were handling the claim, and had asked for receipts “in order to consider the expenses claimed and as appropriate to seek to reach an amicable settlement”.


    Court documents: the alleged debts in full (pdf)

    More court documents (pdf)

     

    Leonardo Dicaprio honoured with Golden Star Award in Morocco

    December 9, 2007

    image21.jpgActor Leonardo DiCaprio received an honorary award from director Martin Scorsese at the opening of the seventh Marrakesh Film Festival in Morocco.

    At the award ceremony Martin lavished praise on the actor as he presented him with a Golden Star Award on Dec 7.He complimented the ‘Titanic’ star for “always working till he breaks through the psychological depth of the character he has to play.”“I never fail to be amazed by his clear and complete commitment to his work,” Contactmusic quoted Scorsese, as saying.DiCaprio, who has worked with Scorsese in Gangs of New York, Aviator and The Departed, returned the compliment by calling the director, “a legend”.

    The two are set to reunite next year (08) for their fourth movie together, ‘Shutter Island.’

    The festival, which honored Scorsese himself in 2005, runs until 15 December (07)

    Moroccan Injured When Goal Post Falls on His Head

    December 5, 2007

    A young Moroccan boy was badly injured when a football goal post fell on him last week.

    The 17 year-old (A.L.) was playing on the San Javier municipal football pitch, but he was swinging on the goal post when it fell on top of him, hitting him on the head. An ambulance arrived within minutes and transported the boy to the Arrixaca Hospital in Murcia. 

    The boy’s family are in Morocco and are being contacted. It appears the police had been called shortly before the accident because a fight was going on between groups of Moroccans and Ecuadorians over the use of the pitch. The boy’s condition remains serious but stable.

    Moroccan American Officer faces deportation after Afghan service

    December 5, 2007

    Highly decorated sergeant ordered to stand trial
    Anti-discrimination committee protests

    Ed Pilkington in New York
    Monday December 3, 2007
    The Guardian

    A highly decorated Moroccan-American sergeant in the US army, who is currently serving as a paratrooper in Afghanistan, faces deportation on his return to the United States because of an irregularity in his immigration papers.
    Sgt Hicham Benkabbou has been served with an order to stand trial for deportation as soon as he arrives home, despite the fact that he has been on active service in Afghanistan for almost two years with the 508th parachute infantry regiment, known as the Red Devils.

    His lawyers say his treatment illustrates the harsh justice meted out to Arab-Americans by the US immigration authorities.
    Benkabbou came to the US from Morocco in 1987, and was granted permanent residency four years ago. But when he applied to become a naturalised US citizen in 2005 – by which time he was already serving in the army – immigration officials discovered that he had failed to register his first marriage and alleged that the ceremony had been arranged fraudulently to get him into the country.

    Benkabbou says that the marriage was annulled and argues it is therefore irrelevant to his immigration status. “I do not think I deserve to get deported after serving honourably during a time of war!” he wrote in an email from Afghanistan.

    “I can read, write and speak Arabic, French and English. I have earned the respect and confidence of my superiors and I shall be a great asset for our country if given the opportunity to become a US citizen.”

    His case has been taken up by the Association of Patriotic Arab Americans in the Military, which represents up to 3,500 Arab-Americans serving in the armed forces. The anti-discrimination committee for Arab-Americans, ADC, has also protested.

    “This is a very disturbing case. This man has been serving our nation, putting his life on the line on behalf of America. This is a setback to attempts to encourage recruitment to the military,” said the ADC’s Imad Hamad.

    The aggressive prosecution of the case has surprised immigration lawyers who point to a directive that advises officials against pressing to deport acting military personnel unless they have been involved in drug trafficking, crimes against children or violence, or unless they pose a danger to the public.

    Benkabbou’s irregularity over his marriage falls into no such categories.

    His lawyer in Atlanta, Georgia, Paul Ford, said the only explanation he could find was that his client was a Muslim, “which sets off all the buzzers. There is no question that Arab-Americans are given a totally different treatment.”

    Ford said that Benkabbou had been accused of being a terrorist by officials from the immigration enforcement agency, ICE. “In court, ICE lawyers called Morocco a terrorist country, which I found astonishing.”

    A spokesman for the US citizenship and immigration services said that under privacy laws the department could not discuss individual cases. But he added that in general, “if someone is placed in deportation proceedings, that is not the end of the process. If the case involves someone serving in the military we will look at it very closely.

    “We understand the service of those who put themselves in harm’s way to preserve the rights in this country that they do not themselves yet enjoy.”

    Several commanding officers have offered support to Benkabbou. Lieutenant Colonel Peterman said: “It is not an understatement to say that Sgt Benkabbou has been instrumental in sustaining the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment during this combat deployment to Afghanistan. He is a leader, a problem solver, and possesses the physical gifts of a US paratrooper.”