Ahmed Sbaai was born in El Aaiun, the capital of occupied Western Sahara, in 1971. Sbaai says the roots for his human rights activism can be traced back to early childhood, when he felt that he and his Saharawi friends were discriminated by Moroccan teachers in the schools.
Sbaai became active in 1999, during the so-called Saharawi Intifada. As he has stated himself: "Our principals were that the intifada would be peaceful, we made national flags and hung them in Moroccan institutions, we also held two minute demonstrations with flags and shouting slogans before dispersing before the police could take us. It was important for the Saharawi people to know some brave men were prepared to fight."
After having organised big demonstrations in El Aaiun in 2002, thereby disrupting the elections that year, the Moroccan authorities arrested Sbaai. He was sentenced to ten years, but was released in 2004, after having spent a year and three months in the notorious black prison in El Aaiun.
Upon his release, Sbaai founded the Saharawi League for the Protection of Political Prisoners inside Moroccan Jails. He was arrested again in 2006 and sentenced to a year and half in prison, accused of being a member of an illegal organisation. Since his releace, he's not had a moment of peace.
"Since my release I have continued my work, I am harassed daily, my passport has been confiscated, even today two human rights observers were removed from my home. Sometimes I feel I was more safe inside prison than outside, at least inside there are guards but outside they [Morocco] could hire someone to kill me", Sbaai has said in the past.
Sbaai was arrested by the Moroccan police on 8 November 2010, in the Lirak neighbourhood, El Aaiun. He says he was not physically tortured, but was beaten and intimidated during his interrogation. He claims to have been kept blindfolded and handcuffed until he was referred to the military court of Rabat.
On the 19th of July, Sbaai was condemned to life imprisonment by the Court of Appeal in Salé. Sbaai was condemned for the forming of a criminal organization and murdering a public officials in their line of duty, with the intent to kill. The sole piece of evidence proving the act committed by Sbaai is the police records; confessions extracted under torture, that Sbaai himself urges is falsified against him. Sbaai declared in the Court of Appeal that the Gdeim Izik camp was dismantled by the military forces, and that the clashes that occurred was a consequence of the violent dismantlement of the peaceful protest camp, that consisted of women, children and elderly.
Morocco occupies the major part of its neighbouring country, Western Sahara. Entering into business deals with Moroccan companies or authorities in the occupied territories gives an impression of political legitimacy to the occupation. It also gives job opportunities to Moroccan settlers and income to the Moroccan government. Western Sahara Resource Watch demands foreign companies leave Western Sahara until a solution to the conflict is found.
Leading activists from Western Sahara are condemned to sentences ranging from 20 years to life imprisonment in connection to a mass protest in 2010 denouncing the Saharawi people’s social and economic marginalization in their occupied land; the Gdeim Izik protest camp.
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