By Mohamed Saadouni
A Casablanca court on Tuesday (June 5th) handed down convictions against two of three defendants on trial for supporting the banned Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir.
The Court of First Instance sentenced the main defendant in the case, Danish-Moroccan Thami Najim, to ten months, giving another ten months to Fouad Said, who served a similar sentence in Tunisia. It also fined them 3,000 dirhams each. It acquitted the third defendant, Mounir Darouri, a single man training at a programming company in Casablanca.
The three were arrested in February on accusations of promoting the banned Islamist party, classified as a terrorist group by Morocco, as well as inciting sedition and seeking to impose a caliphate.
In his address to the jury, defendant Thami Najim said that the judges should be a fortification and solid door to Islam.
“I did not shed the blood of the people, nor their wealth, nor their honour. And I did not hurt anyone because of my commitment to Islam, so why am I charged with subversion?” Najim said.
Najim went on to criticise corruption as well as the nation’s political and economic situation, questioning what he called “strikes, demonstrations, security chaos, collapse of values and inability of solving drought and flood problems”.
His wife, Umm Ayman, told Magharebia after the sentencing that she believed the defendants were still innocent but alleged that “they were served with preconceived rulings”. She then wondered, “How is it possible that the arguments lasted five hours and the deliberation did not exceed half an hour, followed by the rulings?”
The lawyers expressed their resentment of the judgments against their clients, questioning the hastiness to close the file.
A representative of the Danish embassy attended the last session of the trial to support Najim, who had returned to Morocco to settle down with his wife and children.
The public prosecutor, during the session attended by Magharebia, called for “prosecuting the three defendants for their involvement in the secret distribution of leaflets in several cities within the kingdom, incitement to subversion, the call to establish a caliphate in Morocco, and destabilising the Muslim faith.”
As for the defence team, including more than ten lawyers, they insisted on the three defendants’ innocence, contending that the principle of a rightly guided caliphate and the call for it was not a crime, and that members of Hizb ut-Tahrir believe in an Islamist party renouncing violence and calling for change by peaceful means.
The day after the arrest of the cell members, the Interior Ministry issued a statement saying the three were sent by Hizb ut-Tahrir “to oversee implementation of a scheme aimed at disrupting the security and stability of the country by attracting the biggest number of followers”.
The statement said that “members of the dismantled cell, that receives financial support from the organisation activists in Europe, promoted its nihilistic ideology by distributing leaflets casting doubt on the efficacy of the democratic process and inciting sedition”.