Mohamed Fizazi, who spent nearly a decade incarcerated on terrorism charges, published a scalding video discrediting allegations of abuse and torture in Morocco’s prison system.
Rabat — Moroccan Sheikh Mohamed Fizazi is the latest to add his voice to a public feud spurred by the allegations of abuse and torture of inmates within Moroccan detention centers.
In a widely-circulated video, Fizazi attacks and discredits Mohamed Hajib, who has gone viral on YouTube for a series of videos in which he alleges torture and abuse at the hands of Moroccan security forces.
Morocco’s judiciary sentenced Mohamed Fizazi to 30 years in prison for his “ideological influence” on the perpetrators of the 2003 Casablanca attacks, a series of terrorist suicide bombings that killed 33 and injured over 100 more. He was later released in 2011 on a royal pardon.
Fizazi maintains that Hajib is “inventing claims of abuse to garner public sympathy and to destabilize the Moroccan Crown.”
The imam dubbed Hajib a “Kharjijite” — the name extended to adherents of a radical, far-right sect of Islam — and accused him of “calling for a revolution against the lawful ruler of the country.”
The preacher also recounts a spat he had with Hajib upon his release from prison.
“[Hajib] called me a criminal simply for saying, upon my release from prison, ‘Thanks to the King!’” Fizazi remembers. “According to his logic, all Moroccans are criminals because they support and swear allegiance to their King.”
Mohamed Hajib was first imprisoned in 2010 and spent seven years incarcerated on terrorism charges after training alongside radical groups in Pakistan. Morocco released him in 2017 and he relocated to Germany, where he began uploading videos to YouTube accusing Moroccan security services of torture.
It was not the first time the prisoner had alleged mistreatment at the hands of Morocco’s justice system. Back in 2012, the United Nations Human Rights Council called for Hajib’s immediate release, alleging that his “conviction was based on a confession obtained under torture.”
However, Fizazi is not the first to cast doubt on Hajib’s claims.
Bouchta Charef, a former recruiter for a Syrian terrorist cell who spent eight years in Moroccan prisons, also accused the Moroccan police of torture in 2011. A few years later, he retracted his claims, explaining that it is not uncommon for terrorism convicts to self-mutilate and then allege abuse at the hands of security services. He separately claimed that Morocco’s Arab Spring protesters convinced him to make the allegations.
In a recent video response to Hajib’s allegations, Charef promised to “expose all of Hajib’s lies.”
Hassan Al Khatab, Hajib’s ex-cellmate, corroborated Charef’s story, calling Hajib’s torture claims “just lies.”
“How is it possible for someone who is tortured to have a phone and be able to record videos and take pictures from inside the prison?” Al Khatab asked.
Both Charef and Al Khatab have accused Hajib of accepting foreign funding to smear Morocco.
“We are not waiting for any party to pay us to stab our country in the back,” Al Khatab retorted. “You did not only betray an institution but 40 million Moroccans.”
Despite the quick response to discredit Hajib’s claims, his accusations are not the first time Morocco’s prison system has come under fire for alleged abuse and torture of inmates.
In 2009, a year before Hajib’s imprisonment, another high-profile terrorism trial was mired with accusations that key prosecutorial confessions had been procured via torture, undermining the legitimacy of testimony.
Over the past two decades, Morocco has upped its focus on the fight against terrorism and religious extremism in North and West Africa.
Since 2002, Morocco’s counterterrorism forces have dismantled over 2,000 terrorist cells and arrested over 3,500 people for alleged involvement in terror activities, according to data from the Central Bureau of Judicial Investigation (BCIJ).
Mohamed Nifaoui, the commissioner of the BCIJ’s counterterrorism unit, has called Morocco a regional and global leader in the fields of counterterrorism and de-radicalization.
The Moroccan General Delegation of the Prison Administration and Reintegration (DGAPR) continues to deny all allegations of abuse and torture in its detention centers and prisons.