Stavanger Aftenblad, 21.02.07 Tor Dagfinn Dommersnes
Detained The Swedish freelance journalist Lars Björk was Monday night detained by Moroccan police in the Western Sahara capitol El Aaiun. Although a case has not yet been formally filed, he was under interrogation accused of "agitating for riots", "contact with al-Qaida" and "Polisario sympathies".
Desperate "This shows how desperate the Moroccan authorities have become", says Ronny Hansen, president of the Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara.
"Lately they have been carrying out an intense political offensive to charm foreign authorities because they are about to present a plan for the future status of Western Sahara. Therefore they now arrest journalists who are writing about the Sahrawi protests."
It was during the reporting of such a demonstration that journalist Lars Björk was arrested. Björk usually sells articles to the Swedish news agency TT. He had all press permits settled when he was detained. Camera, passport and press card have been confiscated, and he has been interrogated.
War "The patience for people living in the refugee camps are soon to end", Hansen says. Worst case is that armed conflict resumes, and the Moroccan government would be the responsible.
The detention of Lars Björk was last night raised in the EU parliament, and the organisation Reporters Without Borders (RSF) are working to provide him with a lawyer.
See the story in Norwegian original here (pdf). [Translated to English by the Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara.]
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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