Norwegian tourists detained, then thrown out of Western Sahara
Two Norwegian tourists were detained in Western Sahara today. The two men were taken by the police few minutes after meeting the mother of Sahrawi prisoner of conscience, Brahim Dahane. The formal explanation they were given by the Moroccan police for their detention and expulsion was that "speaking with the local population is not explicitly permitted with a Moroccan tourist visa".
The two had spent a week and a half in Morocco and occupied Western Sahara, kiting and mountain climbing. On the way back from Dakhla to Marrakech, they stopped over in El Aaiun, the capital of occupied Western Sahara, to meet with the family of Brahim Dahane, president of the Sahrawi human rights group ASVDH.
Mr Dahane has been imprisoned for 15 months for having visited the Sahrawi refugee camps in Algeria, still awaiting his trial and sentence. Tomorrow, on 11 January, Mr. Dahane and his fellow inmates will start a hunger strike against the unjust legal process they have faced so far in Moroccan courts. The group of seven human rights activists is due to be put on trial next week.
The Norwegian tourists stopped over in El Aaiun to hear how the mother and sister of Mr. Dahane were coping with his long imprisonment. Mr. Dahane was given a human rights award by the Swedish government for his work last year.
The two Norwegians were detained shortly after leaving Dahane’s home late Monday night. One of the men was taken by the police from a taxi, while the other was detained half an hour later in the street.
“They did a thorough search of both us, and interrogated us. The police had observed a flash of the camera in the room where we had met Dahane’s mother, and they were highly interested in obtaining the photos we had”, stated Trygve Utstumoen, one of the expelled Norwegians.
As of midnight, European time, they are on a bus heading towards Marrakech, escorted by Moroccan police.
The photos documenting the meeting between the Norwegian students and the mother of Mr. Dahane, will be published on www.vest-sahara.no.
Dozens of groups of observers, parliamentarians and journalists have been expelled from Western Sahara. Yesterday, a group of Spanish observers were expelled for investigating illegal EU fisheries in the occupied territories.
Since 1975, three quarters of the territory of Western Sahara has been occupied by Morocco. A majority of the population is still living in refugee camps in Algeria. Those who remained in their homeland are subjected to serious harassment from the Moroccan occupiers. For more than 40 years the Sahrawis have been waiting for the fullfilment of their legitimate right to self-determination.
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