Death sentences in Morocco terrorism cases

Moroccan courts have sentenced two Islamic fundamentalists to death for murder and preparing terrorist acts, and passed heavy jail sentences on two fundamentalist preachers said to be the brains behind suicide attacks in May.

Abdelouahab Rabii and Hamid Slimani were sentenced in Rabat late on Thursday for preparing acts of terrorism, murdering an official, and stealing weapons from an army barracks.

The prosecution said Rabii had admitted to strangling a justice ministry official with Slimani’s complicity, and to participating in theft of weapons from a barracks in the town of Taza with the aid of a soldier who had allegedly taken seven Kalashnikov rifles for use against “Jewish interests.”

A military tribunal has already sentenced Rabii to 20 years in absentia.

The two men condemned to death and 12 other defendants who received jail terms were charged with criminal association, endangering public order and attacks on internal state security.

Sixteen people have now been sentenced to death under Morocco’s new anti-terrorism laws adopted after suicide bombings in Casablanca in May which claimed 45 lives, including those of 12 bombers.

Meanwhile a Casablanca court sentenced two Moroccan men identified as “theorists” behind an Islamic fundamentalist group to 30 and 20 years respectively.

The prosecution had demanded the death sentence on Abdelwahab Rafiki and Hassan Kettani, saying they had been major figures behind the banned Moroccan Islamic extremist group Salafia Jihadia.

Salafia Jihadia has been accused by Moroccan investigators of masterminding the series of suicide attacks in Casablanca on May 16.

The prosecution said that “although Hassan Kettani and Abdelwahab Rafiki were not active on the ground, they were the brains behind the kamikaze cell that carried out the five suicide attacks in Casablanca.”

In five simultaneous attacks, booby-trapped cars exploded on the evening of May 16, outside international and Jewish targets in downtown Casablanca, Morocco’s economic hub.

The attacks instantly killed 41 people, mostly Moroccan, including 12 of the Islamic suicide bombers. Four others died later of injuries.

The Casablanca court on Thursday also sentenced 30 further people to jail sentences ranging up to one life sentence.

The sentences are the latest in a series passed by Moroccan courts following the May 16 attacks.

Almost 50 life sentences and other other heavy terms ranging up to 30 years have been handed down.

Among those given life was French Islamic extremist Pierre Robert. The sentences are not subject to review except before the highest appeals tribunal.

Justice Minister Mohamed Bouzoubaa said this month a total of 906 suspected Islamic extremists had been arrested in the wake of the Casablanca bombings but warned that “the peril is still there”.

The indictment in Thursday’s sentences did not claim any direct connection between the defendants and Salafia Jihadia.

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