Imad El Attabi, demonstrator of ‘Hirak Rif’, the first to be killed by the hand of the Moroccan security forces during the Hirak Rif protests
The 22-year-old Imad El Attabi, like thousands of others, went out to demonstrate for his rights in Al Hoceima on 20 July 2017. When he left his house he could not know that he would not return and that a bullet from the Moroccan security forces would put an end to his life. On top of this crime his family was denied the right to say the last goodbye to him. Witnesses of this murder were pressured, intimidated and imprisoned.
When Imad El Attabi took part in the demonstration of 20 July 2017 in Al Hoceima, he was suddenly shot with live ammunition, he was hit in the head and fell to the ground, whereupon his friends took him to the local hospital. Nurse Najib Bouzambou witnessed this. Subsequently, without consulting his family or the doctor on duty, his lifeless body was taken by the local authorities, most probably on assignment from Rabat, the next day by helicopter to the military hospital in Rabat.
On 8 August 2017 Imad El Attabi was officially declared dead by the Moroccan regime. Thousands of Riffians said goodbye to him during his funeral in Al-Hoceima. That the Moroccan regime had something to hide with regard to the death of Imad El Attabi who was buried in Iyyar Azegwagh, a nearby town near Al Hoceima, is evidenced by the fact that the coffin was not allowed to be opened, his medical file was not given access and his family was put under pressure by the Moroccan regime not to speak publicly about the death of their son.
After the funeral, the Moroccan regime started the prosecution against the witnesses of this political murder of El Attabi. The first was Abdelhak Al Fahsi (1999) from Ayt Ulichek in the province of Driouch (Nador). He was a direct witness to the political murder and responded to a call by lawyer Abdessadeq El Bouchattaoui. This lawyer presented himself on facebook as the lawyer of the El Attabi family and searched that way for witnesses of the murder of El Attabi. El Fahsi then contacted the lawyer. This brought not only the lawyer in contact with this witness, but also the Moroccan secret service. To put it mildly, this was a naive action by this lawyer who had also assisted Nasser Zefzafi and other kidnapped Riffian activists. He should have known that he was spied on and that he should not have endangered his clients in this way.
And so Al Fahsi was arrested in August 2017 and falsely accused of crimes. He was systematically tortured during pre-trial detention. This may have had something to do with the fact that Al Fahsi had registered the murder with his smartphone, the smartphone with the evidence was confiscated by the police. During a show trial he was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment. This sentence also meant that he could not testify in the case of Imad El Attabi. Moroccan criminal law does not allow the testimony of a person with a criminal record. The harsh punishment also served as a deterrent to other witnesses and it was hoped to silence them.
Nabil Achahbar also witnessed the murder of El Attabi. Photos and videos show how this Riffian activist was abducted by several Moroccan agents with brute force. All this because he witnessed this political murder and together with others he carried El Attabi to the hospital. The Moroccan court sentenced him to fifteen months in prison and he was released in October 2018.
The previously mentioned nurse Najib Bouzambou, who was at the hospital when El Attabi arrived there, was given access to the X-ray photographs of Imad El Attabi showing the bullet in his head. Bouzambou was arrested by the Moroccan police on the afternoon of Sunday 13 August 2017 and taken to the police station where he was humiliated, scolded, beaten and abused by Arab-speaking executioners. Najib Bouzambou was sentenced to 2 years in prison.
Younes Fathi, who was 20 years old at the time, had contact with the witness Abdelhak Al Fahsi who mentioned his name in the trial verbally. Fathi comes from the same region as Fahsi. For this reason Fathi was arrested in September 2017 and was convicted during a show trial for, among other things, taking part in an unauthorised demonstration, funding from abroad. Younes Fathi was sentenced to 3 years imprisonment.
In an interview the Moroccan Minister for Human Rights Mustapha Ramid denied in all tones that there had been deaths during the Rif protest movement (Hirak Rif). In fact, he denied that the Moroccan police who had been specially sent to the Rif had any ammunition at their disposal. That this is a huge lie is clear from a trial verbally drawn up by the judicial police following the fire in a police building in Imzoueren, where it is stated in black and white that this police unit had various weapons and types of ammunition at its disposal.
However, the King of Morocco Mohammed VI praised the bloody behaviour of his police officers in the Reef during his annual speech from the throne on 29 July 2017, more than a week after the death of Imad El Attabi. In doing so, he resolutely rejected all criticism of the police action.
The entire funeral ceremony of Imad El Attabi was directed by the Moroccan regime, nobody else had anything to say about it, including his family. Today, three years later, the actual cause of Imad El Attabi’s death has still not been made public, so no serious investigation has been done into it.
Translated by: Najat M.