The two Swedish fishermen Ove Ahlström and Lennart Kjellberg, former owners of the fishing vessels Aldo and Nordic IV, were found guilty of illegal fishing in the waters outside Dakhla by a Swedish Court of Appeal on 22 April 2015.
Beside paying fines they have to pay 4 million Swedish crowns (about 420.000 euro) out of the profit of the 20 million Swedish crowns they gained from 13 months of fishing from April 2007 to May 2008.
The fishermen were sentenced because they did not have the two relevant permissions when they were spotted by EU vessels about to fish in Western Sahara spring 2007. The EU-Moroccan Fisheries Partnership Agreement had just come into force and Swedish Fisheries Authorities were immediately contacted by European Commission. Sweden had voted no to the Agreement in 2006 since such fisheries are in violation of international law.
The two accused persons have claimed that they had private agreements with a Moroccan fish factory owner and holder of fishing licences in order to facilitate for Morocco to develop a modern fishing fleet.
The juridical process has taken almost eight years, partly because of very active lawyers. The court of appeal asked for a preliminary ruling from the European Court of Justice in 2013 to rule out the possibility of having private agreements parallel to the EU-Moroccan Fisheries Partnership Agreement. The answer from ECJ in October 2014 was clear: Such agreements have to be sanctioned by the European Commission.
During three days in March the Swedish Court of Appeal resumed the legal process.
Although the legal case has not touched on the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara Swedish media has followed and commented this with great interest.
Several Swedish fishing vessels have been sold to Morocco and Swedes travel to Dakhla in turns to work as crew on board these vessels.See more about the Swedish exports of old fishing vessels to Western Sahara in the Greenpeace report 'Exporting Exploitation'.
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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