Moroccan Salafist refutes former terrorism suspect’s torture claims

The testimony of salafist Abderrazak Soumah would seem to reflect the success of the Moroccan authorities in dealing with terrorism suspects.
Friday 19/03/2021
Security forces sit inside a court room before the start of a  trial session for terrorism suspects , in Sale, near Rabat, Morocco,  July 18, 2019. (AP)
Security forces sit inside a court room before the start of a trial session for terrorism suspects , in Sale, near Rabat, Morocco, July 18, 2019. (AP)

RABAT--Salafist Abdelrazzak Soumah was once the fourth-ranking figure in Morocco’s  “Mujahideen” terrorist group.

He has dismissed the torture allegations made by former group member Ali Aarrass, following his release last year at the end of a 12 year prison sentence.

Aarrass had been jailed for “belonging to a criminal gang for the purpose of preparing and committing terrorist acts, as part of a collective project aimed at seriously undermining public order.”

His claims, contained in a posted video, sparked controversy in Morocco last April. They prompted the authorities to order a medical probe of the claims. Subsequently five doctors said they could find no evidence of torture or ill treatment.

Indeed Soumah maintains that far from being tortured, Aarrass and fellow Salafists were well treated while in detention. He said all 20 of his fellow prisoners were surprised by their humane treatment and the good atmosphere in which investigations had been conducted. “This contradicted all the rumours and exaggerated accounts we had received” he said.

He added “There is no need to believe the misinformation that was circulated, such as the use of bottles to extract confessions. All the investigations were documented in the police records, with their exact time and place.”

Analysts believe that Soumah’s evidence reflects the success of the Moroccan approach to dealing with terrorism suspects.

Security expert Mohamed Akdad commented that Soumah’s testimony again highlights this.

“It is a strategy that takes different dimensions, including the legal aspect and the intellectual self-assessment (muraja’at) by these people. Many times, some salafists who were affiliated with extremist ideologies were pardoned after carrying out self-assessment exercises successfully. They are now integrated into the social fabric and are fighting this type of extremism out of conviction. ”

Akdad told The Arab Weekly that Ali Aarrass had been trying to settle scores with Morocco through his mistreatment claims. He added “Ali Arraass and others, such as the terrorist and former detainee Mohammed Hajeb, are making torture allegations because they did not benefit from any privileges after they were released from prison and they could not keep up with the democratic transition in Morocco.”

Islamic studies expert Mohammed Abdelwahab Rafik, himself a former salafist figure known as Abu Hafs, believes the torture allegations must be viewed objectively.

Islamic studies expert Mohammed Abdelwahab Rafik. (TAW)
Islamic studies expert Mohammed Abdelwahab Rafik. (TAW)

“Based on my experience” he said, not all allegations of torture are fabricated and not all claims are true or correct. Each case must be checked on its own”.

He told The Arab Weekly that he “examined many cases in which allegations of torture were made in order to put pressure on the administration and to draw the sympathy of public opinion and human rights organisations, while it was proven at the end that the claimants were not subjected to such abuses.”

Mohammed Rafik confirmed that “in the cases of the salafists that I witnessed, many of the detainees used some subterfuges to delude people into believing they had been subjected to torture, such as that of Bouchetti Charef  (a former Islamist detainee who claimed that he was tortured and then retracted his allegations). I knew that he was not raped and when he got out of prison, he confessed to that. ”

Other countries have taken notice of Morocco’s policy toward terrorist detainees, of encouraging them to reassess their ideological affiliation and leading many to abandon their extremist ideas. This has resulted in the release of a large number of detainees.