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Spain forcibly returns Moroccan man at risk of torture

    December 17, 2010

    Amnesty International has condemned the Spanish authorities’ decision to forcibly return a man accused of terrorism-related offences to Morocco where he faces the risk of torture, incommunicado detention and unfair trial. Ali Aarrass was extradited from Spain to Morocco last Tuesday. The dual Belgian-Moroccan national had been held in Spain since his arrest in April 2008.

    The Moroccan authorities accuse him of belonging to a terrorist network headed by Abdelkader Belliraj, a Belgian-Moroccan national who was sentenced to life imprisonment last year in Morocco after he and others were convicted of planning terrorist acts.

    "By forcibly returning Ali Aarrass to Morocco, the Spanish authorities have exposed him to a serious risk of torture and other human rights violations amid persistent reports of abuses by Moroccan security forces committed in the name of countering terrorism," said Andrea Huber, Deputy Programme Director for Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International.

    "Ali Aarrass's extradition is a violation of several treaties to which Spain is a party, including the European Convention on Human Rights which prohibits the return of anyone to a country where they would be at risk of torture."

    The extradition also breaches interim measures ordered by the UN Human Rights Committee on 26 November 2010, calling on Spain not to enforce the extradition until the Committee has taken its decision in this case.

    Neither Ali Aarrass's lawyers nor his relatives in Belgium and Spain were officially notified of his extradition by the Spanish authorities and learnt of it only from the media.

    His relatives have had no news about his fate and whereabouts since he was detained on arrival in Morocco, heightening concern for his safety.

    His lawyers told Amnesty International that Interpol officials took Ali Aarrass from Valdemoro prison in Madrid on Tuesday. He is believed to have been transferred to Casablanca later that day.

    Ali Aarrass had been on hunger strike in prison in Spain for 25 days before his extradition.

    The Spanish Council of Ministers approved Ali Aarrass's extradition on 19 November.

    At the same time, the Council refused to extradite Mohammed el Bay, a man arrested with Ali Aarrass, who has both Spanish and Moroccan citizenship.

    Ali Aarrass and Mohammed el Bay were arrested in the Spanish enclave city of Melilla on 1 April 2008, on the basis of international arrest warrants issued by Morocco.

    Ali Aarrass's sister Farida told Amnesty International that her family were concerned that the Belgian authorities had done nothing to prevent him from being transferred to Morocco despite fears that this would put him at risk of serious human rights violations.

    "Ali had no support from the Belgian authorities, even though he is a Belgian national and has even done his military service there. There was no proof of his involvement in terrorism- related activities, but suspicions were considered enough to extradite him. We have no more faith in Spanish or Belgian justice."

    For further information,
    please contact:

    Beth Berton-Hunter,
    Media Relations,
    Amnesty International Canada
    416-363-9933, ext. 332

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