Morocco expels eight Europeans undermining public order for supporting Western Sahara prisoners
The Moroccan Interior Ministry said on Thursday that they expelled eight European activists from the country who had been accused of undermining public order by supporting prisoners from Western Sahara protests in 2010.
Since last month, tensions have mounted over the Western Sahara territory. Morocco has decided to expel members of the UN mission in the area over UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's comments, which Rabat deemed offensive.
The interior ministry said a group of Europeans representing the "so-called international collective" supporting prisoners of Gdeim Izik had been expelled.
"Local authorities of the city of Rabat have decided to expel eight foreign citizens, including two French nationals, one Belgian and five Spaniards, for attempting to undermine public order," its statement said.
The group was arrested when they arrived at their hotel in Rabat on Wednesday, Joseph Breham, a member of the group and the lawyer of one of the prisoners.
"Authorities were planning to expel them by boat via Tangiers, but when they protested they finally put them on a plane from Rabat airport on Thursday morning," Breham told media by phone.
In 2010, a Moroccan military court jailed 24 Western Saharan activists accused of killing members of the security forces who stormed a protest camp, known as Gdeim Izik.
The 24 members of the Rabat group were jailed for life.
Three of the accused received the lightest sentences and have already served their terms and have been freed.
In 1975 Morocco took over most of the Western Sahara from colonial Spain. The incident triggered a guerrilla war with the Sahrawi people's Polisario Front, which says the desert territory in the northwest of Africa belongs to it.
The UN brokered a ceasefire in 1991 and sent in its MINURSO mission to help organise a referendum on the future of the territory. But the sides couldn't implement it ever since.