In my novel, CREED, the inspiration for Ilyas’ unwarranted arrest and horrendous incarceration in a Morocco jail came from Hamid, a young man I met in Casablanca. My conversation with this university student became the impetus for researching the 2003 terrorist bombing after I returned home.
The Casablanca bombing was carried out on May 16, 2003 by 14 radicals belonging to a group called Salafiya Jihadiya. Most of them were between the ages of 20 and 23. During the massacre in which 33 innocent people were killed, 12 of the radicals were also killed. Immediately afterward, in their haste to bring those responsible to justice, the Moroccan police arrested close to 3,000 people. Many were held in secret detention and tortured. They were then brought to swift trials, not allowed to present witnesses, given long prison sentences and incarcerated in horrendous prisons.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have long held that many of these people were not connected to the bombing in any respect. Indeed, even the Moroccan Monarch has admitted that abuses of the justice system occurred immediately after the 2003 bombing. The Moroccan government has supposedly offered to review those cases of incarcerated prisoners claiming no involvement with the Casablanca terrorists. However, no action has taken place to date.
A Reuters article published May 15, 2012, caught my interest. The Reuters story referred to those alleged innocent people who remain incarcerated after nine years. The article cited a hunger strike they were staging to renew pressure on the government to free them. The article described the horrific jail conditions—torture, beatings, lack of health care and forced feedings. The Moroccan government denies these claims, asserting that its prisoners are not abused. Since beginning the hunger strike at least one prisoner has died.
While making no judgment as to the guilt or innocence of these Moroccan prisoners, in studying this topic I’m struck by the similarities in the treatment of terrorist suspects still being held in Guantanamo. British journalist Andy Worthington writes in his June 6, 2012 blog: “One of the greatest injustices at Guantanamo is that, of the 169 prisoners still held, over half—87 in total—were cleared for release by President Obama’s interagency Guantanamo Review Task Force.” Worthington asserts that even though they were cleared of involvement in terrorist activity, some many years ago under the Bush administration, they still remain imprisoned. Unlike Ilyas and CREED, the Guantanamo matter is based on facts rather than fiction, and truly reprehensible.
Please visit Andy Worthington’s blog at: http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/