Police carry out systematic harassment, say Muslims
Muslim religious leaders in Spain believe members of the security services are trying to recruit members of their faith with links to mosques to become informers.
19 December 2007
MADRID - Muslim religious leaders in Spain believe members of the security services are increasingly using "over zealous" methods to persuade members of their faith with links to mosques to become informers. Mosques in Madrid, Toledo, Valladolid, Barcelona, and Granada have reportedly been targeted by men claiming to be undercover police. The Interior Ministry says that it has no knowledge of any incidents, and that it requires "specific reports" to be able take any action.
Omar Hajjami, a 27-year-old butcher from Marrakech in Morocco, who has been resident in Spain for six years and is a member of Valladolid's Islamic council, says he was approached a year ago by two men claiming to be secret police. "They came up to me in a gas station and asked if they could talk to me. They then gave me detailed information about my personal life." He says that they asked him to collaborate with them and to provide information about leading figures in the Islamic community. Hajjami admits he was frightened, and told them he would think about their request.
Two days later one of the officers called to accuse him of smuggling drugs. "If they can accuse me today of that, then tomorrow they can say I sell arms," he says.
After the two men refused to fully identify themselves, Omar decided to leave Spain, returning to Marrakech with his wife and two children. But as soon as he returned two months later, he was immediately contacted by the two supposed police officers. He agreed to meet them, and this time they threatened him with a gun, saying that they would send him to a prison in Morocco.
Finally, after continued harassment, Omar reported the matter to the police in Salamanca. So far they have been unable to identify the alleged police officers. At a recent Islamic conference of religious and community leaders held in Segovia, several speakers reported similar incidents. They said that they had not reported them out of fear of reprisals.
A number of leaders of Muslim religious associations in Spain have resigned their posts in the face of "unbearable and suffocating police pressure. We are losing valuable people because they cannot bear the overzealous approach of these officers, who very often don't even identify themselves," said a Muslim leader who did not want to give his name.
Thirteen Muslim communities in Toledo have been visited by people claiming to be from the Justice Ministry, say leaders there. "They wanted to know about our financing and what we do. They ask for papers, want to know who comes and goes, and what other mosques are doing," says one Muslim cleric.
These and other Muslim associations are given subsidies and other financial support for cultural activities within the ambit of the government-funded Foundation for Pluralism and Shared Community. The people passing themselves off as Justice Ministry officials want to know about this funding, say Muslim leaders.
An Interior Ministry spokesman said that there was no "objective proof" that the men responsible for the incidents were from the security forces.
[Copyright EL PAÍS, SL./ JOSÉ MARÍA IRUJO 2007]
Subject: Spanish news