By Mohamed Saadouni
The trial of three young men affiliated with the Islamist Hizb ut-Tahrir began May 29th in Aïn Sebâa, Casablanca.
The National Brigade of the Judicial Police (BNJP) arrested alleged cell leader Thami Najim – a Moroccan computer engineer who holds Danish citizenship – last February, along with co-defendants Fouad Said and Mounir Darouri. Several documents, leaflets and CDs promoting the ideology of Hizb ut-Tahrir were seized during the arrests.
“Elements from the BNJP managed to dismantle a cell of the so-called Hizb ut-Tahrir which is classified as a saboteur group with international dimensions,” the interior ministry said.
The communiqué accused the three of planning to undermine “the country’s security and stability by recruiting the biggest possible number of supporters”, adding they received financial support from Europe to promote “their nihilist ideology via the distribution of leaflets in which they cast doubts on the efficacy of democracy and incite commotion”.
The defendants are charged as per chapter 201 of the penal code, which states that those who are guilty of breaching the internal security of the state shall be punished, and perpetrators of attacks aimed at provoking civil war by arming or encouraging a group of citizens to arm themselves shall be put to death.
If convicted, they face prison terms ranging from five to 20 years.
The court refused to examine a number of formal arguments filed by the defence lawyers in the case that has sparked a broad debate in the kingdom. The justice ministry also denied a request by Imad Eddine Hadou, a leader of the banned Islamist group in Tunisia, to represent the three young people. ”
In our opinion as defence lawyers, the file contains a number of violations, including the violation of secrecy of investigations and interrogations,” Issam Ibrahimi, one of the defence lawyers of the detainees, told Magharebia.
He noted that “after the arrest of the defendants, the executive authorities represented by the interior ministry issued a communiqué condemning the defendants and accusing them of sabotage.”
“Those defendants embrace ideas and the code of criminal procedure doesn’t punish ideas but acts,” the defence lawyer added in a statement to Magharebia. “Those young people belong to Hizb ut-Tahrir, which promises a caliphate following the style of Prophet without embracing violence,” he claimed.
Hizb ut-Tahrir is a banned international Islamic party advocating the change of a “corrupt” society and turning it into an Islamic society. The party also embraces the Islamic call and jihad in hopes of realising the dream of a caliphate and the establishment of an Islamic state governed by the principle of halal and haram according to party supporters’ understanding.
Richid Elmounasafi, an analyst specialised in terrorism-related criminology, told Magharebia that “in its principles and major goals, Hizb ut-Tahrir is similar to many of the cells that were previously dismantled, such as the Ansar al-Mehdi cell led by Sheikh Hassan Khattab which was dismantled in August 2006 and which had the major goal of undermining the existing regime to establish the Islamic caliphate state.”
“It’s also similar to the Abou Yacine group which came out of Ansar al-Mehdi after a dispute about the leadership of believers and after Hassan Khattab announced his support of ideological revisions at prison,” Elmounasafi added.
He explained that “there was also another group that was previously dismantled and is similar to Hizb ut-Tahrir in the demand about Islamic caliphate, i.e. Al Mourabitine Al Jodod (New Fighters Group), which was dismantled in mid-2008 and which had organisational ties with al-Qaeda and was aiming to overthrow the existing regime and establish the caliphate state.”