On 10 July 1971, the Moroccan army carried out a failed coup against the king in the palace of Skhirat. The following year airmen made a new coup, this time the plane of King Hassan II, on his return from France, was attacked in the air by jet fighters.
In the near future the Amazigh Information Centre will reconstruct this historical event with short articles. We will do so on the basis of testimonies from people who have experienced this event, such as the fighter pilot Salah Hachad, books by critical authors such as Gilles Perrault, Stephen Smith and various newspaper articles.
The court ruling
It was decided to pronounce the court verdict on an islamic holiday: the end of the Ramadan feast or the ‘Little Feast’, which falls on 7 November 1972. Eleven people were sentenced to death: 1- Lieutenant Colonel Mohamed Amekrane, 2- Major Louafi Kouera, 3- Captain Larabi El Haj, 4- Lieutenant Ziad Abdelkader, 5- Lieutenant Boukhalif Abdel Hamid, 6- Second Lieutenant El Yazid Midaoui, 7- Adjutant El Mahdi Abdelali, 8- Adjutant El Bahraoui Tahar, 9- Sergeant Binoi Larbi, 10- Adjutant Belkacem Ahmed, 11- Adjutant Kamoun Abderrahman.
Thirty-two people receive prison sentences ranging from three to twenty years, including: Salah Hachad, M’barek Touil, Zemmouri Mohamed, Allal Oulhaj, M’faddel Maghouti, Mohamed Dahho, Mohamed Doukali, Ahmed Ben Boubker, Ahmed Louafi, Batoui, Laidi, Benaissa Rachidi, Sbika, Zyane, Raji, Radi, Demnatte, Kasem Bahraoui, Yekko, Abdelkarim, Mesbah, Haddane, Bouamalate, Larbi Zyane, Chemsi.
Maghouti, one of the suspects, was sentenced to three years in prison by the court, but his name is on the list of prisoners sentenced to 20 years. His lawyer raises this issue and asks the court for redress. Colonel Ahmed Dlimi, one of the members of the court, has the following reaction: “Stop it, there is no difference between three years or twenty years of imprisonment, it is all the same“. Later in this story it will become clear what Colonel Dlimi means by this. Ahmed Dlimi (1931-1983) is an aide to King Hassan II. He becomes director of the secret service after the death of Oufkir. He died in 1983 under very suspicious circumstances.
Air Force pilot Salah Hachad declares towards Al Jazeera that on the day of the verdict he saw a crying guard (a gendarme) when he entered the courthouse. When Hachad stood next to him, the guard whispered in his ear: “You have been sentenced to 20 years”. Hachad wondered how the guard could have known this, even though the judge had not yet pronounced a verdict.
The convicts were all taken to Kenitra prison, in a wing reserved for those sentenced to death. They are placed with the prisoners who have been sentenced to death for crimes. The imprisoned military personnel are not allowed to receive visitors, even from their family members. Salah Hachad’s wife gave birth to her second child during the imprisonment of her husband. Salah Hachad is told by his lawyer that he has become a father again.
The prisoners are told that they will be pardoned by the king. On January 9, 1973, the gendarmerie, led by Lieutenant Fadoul, entered the prison and took Kouera and Amekrane to an unknown destination. Later, it will appear that they were taken to Hassan II in Rabat. After two days of absence, they were returned to the prison in Kenitra around three o’clock in the morning. The fellow prisoners hear that Kouera and Amekrane are in enormous pain: they have been severely tortured for two days, says fellow pilot and fellow prisoner captain Salah Hachad to Al Jazeera in 2009. Kouera shouts to Amekrane: “Why? Why didn’t you tell him [Hassan II] what he wanted to hear? When he asked you questions and promised to release us? You are the cause…” But Amekrane did not answer, either to Hassan II or to his friend Kouera.
Perhaps Hassan II wanted a confession from Amekrane that political parties are involved in the coup attempt. On the day of the execution of the coupleggers, three prominent members of the Moroccan political parties M’hamed Douiri, Omar Benjelloun and Mohamed Elyazghi were sent bomb letters. Mohamed Elyazghi escaped death and had to be operated on, he will carry the visible mutilation of the bomb all his life.
Hassan II liked people to ask him for forgiveness. Shortly before the trial of the soldiers of Ahermoumou the following order was given to his closest associates: “Condemn the soldiers to the maximum punishment and then leave to me the choice to grant their pardon”. After Amekrane was sentenced to death, he did not ask Hassan II for a pardon. That hit the king hard, as if Amekrane had committed a second attack against Hassan II.
This article is continued.
Translated by: Najat M.