Rights group calls on Morocco to release retired officer



RABAT - A rights group appealed to Morocco to release a 72-year-old French-Moroccan former officer sentenced to 12 years in jail for divulging a state secret, in a letter sent Friday to King Mohammed VI.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) asked the king to examine the case of Kaddour Terhzaz, currently in Sale prison accused of "harming external state security by having communicated a national defence secret".
HRW said it was protesting against "the severity of the sentence, and the harsh conditions of Terhzaz's incarceration", especially placing him in a one-man cell.



Sonia Terhzaz, the daughter of Kaddour Terhzaz, takes part in a demonstration in support of her father, in Paris, December 2009  (AFP/File/Mehdi Fedouach)
Sonia Terhzaz, the daughter of Kaddour Terhzaz, takes part in a demonstration in support of her father, in Paris, December 2009 (AFP/File/Mehdi Fedouach)
"The military court tried and imposed a heavy prison term on Terhzaz only 19 days after his arrest and only one week after the court drew up the formal charges and referred him to trial", the rights group added.
On Saturday, to mark the birthday of the prophet Mohammed, the king gave partial and complete pardons to 448 convicts, but Terhzaz was not among those on his list.
In November 2008, Terhzaz was convicted for a letter he had written in 2005 to the king, deploring what he considered Morocco's shabby treatment of former air force combat veterans.
The pilots had been shot down and captured by the Polisario Front, which seeks independence for Western Sahara, during the war over the former Spanish territory in the 1970's.
"Freed after a quarter century in captivity in Algeria and back home in Morocco, some of the former pilots tried to organize an association to lobby for better treatment", HRW said in a separate statement.
Terhzaz had pointed out in his letter that the pilots had fought for their country even though their planes were not equipped with defences against Polisario missiles.
HRW asked Mohammed VI to use Article 34 in Morocco's constitution, which gives the king the power to pardon prisoners, to overturn Terhzaz's conviction and release him from prison.
HRW also pointed out that "since his arrest, French authorities have not expressed concern publicly" about Terhzaz's case, despite his joint French-Moroccan nationality.
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Sunday, February 28th 2010
AFP
           


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