Marrakesh bomb trial to resume

20th September 2011, Comments 0 comments

The trial in Morocco of nine suspects in a bomb attack in April that killed 17 people, mainly European tourists, is set to resume on Thursday with bereaved relatives in attendance.

The main suspect, 25-year-old Adil El-Atmani, and his accomplices face the death penalty if proven guilty.

The trial opened on June 30 but was then adjourned to August 18 and further postponed to September 22 in order to allow the plaintiffs to prepare their case.

"So far the trial is taking place in normal conditions. The judicial guarantees are there and personally, I'm ready. So I don't wish for another postponement," Omar Abouzouhour, a lawyer for nine of the victims' families, told AFP.

The nine suspects are accused of "seriously undermining public order, premeditated murder and laying an ambush, the possession of and making of explosives, and belonging to a banned religious group."

The victims, most of them tourists, included eight French nationals as well as citizens of Britain, Canada, Switzerland, Portugal and The Netherlands.

Relatives of the victims of the April 28 attack on the terrace of a cafe on Marrakesh's bustling Djemaa El-Fna square are in Morocco for the hearing.

The Marrakesh bombing was the most deadly in the north African kingdom since attacks in the coastal city of Casablanca in 2003 which killed 33 people and 12 suicide bombers.

Security sources have alleged that El-Atmani, wearing a wig and carrying a guitar, left two bags containing bombs on the cafe terrace and triggered the blasts with a mobile phone just after leaving.

"Morocco wants this trial to wind up by the end of December, they want it to finish as quickly as possible because every time you talk about the attack, it doesn't do any good to the tourism industry," said Jacques Sombret, one of the French victims' father.

He argued that the attack revealed major cracks in Morocco's anti-terror surveillance system.

"When you see that El-Atmani left Morocco three times with a passport to go to Afghanistan or Libya and was sent back to his country three times ... Moroccan police never saw fit to monitor him," Sombret said.

During the August hearing, Atmani claimed he was innocent and asked for King Mohammed VI to intervene in his favour.

"Mister El-Atmani has not yet told me why he changed tack. As you know, after his arrest he admitted to the charges against him in front of investigators and of the prosecutor," his lawyer, Abderrahman Al-Abidine, told AFP by phone.

The lawyer added that during the last visit he paid to his client, El-Atmani had asked him for a Koran.

Police have described some of the suspects in the Marrakesh attack as "admirers of Al-Qaeda" and Moroccan authorities had initially blamed Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) for the bombing.

AQIM, behind a series of attacks and kidnappings in north Africa, denies responsibility.

© 2011 AFP

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