/ 10 February 2007

‘China thieves’ ask Moroccan monarch for mercy

The families of 17 people suspected of stealing royal china in Morocco will ask King Mohammed VI to step in and halt their prosecution, a lawyer in the case said on Friday.

”I have asked for a [trial] delay to allow the families to beg the king for a pardon so that the legal prosecution can stop. They have decided to turn to Mohammed VI because they know the monarch’s mercy towards his subjects,” said Me Abdelatif Wahabi, a defence lawyer in the case.

The 17 defendants, eight of who remain in custody, were arrested in September 2005 for grand larceny and dealing in stolen goods following a robbery at a royal residence in Rabat.

They have been accused of stealing crystal glasses, decanters and bowls, as well as plates bearing the monogram of the late king Hassan II.

The trial opened at a Rabat appeals court in March last year, but has been postponed several time following requests from the defence. It is now scheduled to resume on March 16.

Eighteen other people were also arrested in September 2005 for stealing supplies from the royal palace in Marrakesh. One of them has since died, and his family claims he was tortured to death.

At the end of September 2005, Mohammed VI’s office announced that he would not push for prosecution of the suspected thieves involved in the two royal residence robberies. — Sapa-AFP