The 28 year old Dutch citizen, Lahsan Aacuk, faces two or more years in a Moroccan prison while he awaits sentencing to take place on August 1st.
Currently hunger-striking since May in protest against inhumane treatment along with 24 other detainees, Lahsan is accused of recruiting fighters for the jihad in Syria.
His Moroccan compatriots have been convicted of similar Syria-related charges as some have recently returned from the war-torn country while others have been deported back to Morocco by Spain or Turkey and are now facing extensive sentences.
On Tuesday, April 16 Lahsan Aacuk was abducted in broad daylight by Moroccan intelligence services [DST] while visiting his sick mother in the At Tawaabil district of Tetouane in northern Morocco.
“I opened the door, and they jumped on me, men in civilian clothes. I was blindfolded, pushed into a van and taken to a police station in Casablanca for questioning. ‘We know many of you,’ they said. ‘We work with the AIVD.’ If I did not talk, they would abduct my brother. And they would claim that I am from Al Qaeda. I would be charged with the attacks in Boston and also prosecuted for recruiting fighters for the conflict Mali.”
It was later discovered that he was being held and further interrogated in the notorious Salé 2 prison.
“I’m blindfolded, tied to a chair, kicked and beaten with sticks,” said Aacuk in a telephone interview with the Volkskrant in June. “They want to link me to Al-Qaeda.”
He was later arraigned on vague charges of terrorism and it is expected to be found guilty of such charges.
Like many of the 4 million Moroccans that live abroad, Lahsan holds dual citizenship from both his native country and from the country he resides in, the Netherlands.
For nearly two months after his disappearance Moroccan authorities rejected claims of holding any Dutchman in custody and denied Dutch consular visits for the tortured man. It was not until June that prison authorities were finally presented with Lahsan’s papers indicating his Dutch citizenship.
Lahsan was not only disturbed by the interrogation methods, but also by the proximal presence of Dutch intelligence.
“Among the papers of the [Moroccan] interrogators was a Dutch paper with the logo of the AIVD. I also got a lot of questions about my Dutch friends and Dutch Syria-goers. It is strange that so many Moroccans want to know about the Netherlands. “
Although the GSIS refused to comment on its role in the recent interrogations, the AIVD states in it annual report that “cooperation between national and international organizations is necessary for the protection of Dutch interests.”
Last month Lahsan’s lawyer, Michiel Pestman, filed a complaint with the Interior Minister Ronald Plasterk claiming AIVD ‘wrongdoing’ against Lahsan.
The question of AIVD involvement is further complicated by its accusations that a grassroots Dutch-Moroccan prisoner rights organisation by the name of Behind Bars, may be involved with recruiting foreign fighters to Syria, the same organisation that Lahsan has been active in while living in Amsterdam.
Dutch intelligence and its alleged cooperation in the questioning of Moroccan prisoners is centered on a controversial theory of socialisation. “These [advocacy] movements have created an environment where like-minded people meet and where radical ideas have been able to develop into jihadist ideas. Group dynamics has led to rapid radicalization of many individuals,” claims a recent AIVD report.
The theory explains why an organisation like Behind Bars can be deemed guilty of conspiracy by merely providing a space to marginalised minorities to discuss politically adverse ideology.
The allegations come after a series of successful and high profile campaigns by Dutch-Moroccans demanding the end of human rights abuses and arbitrary detention in their home country. Past campaigns have highlighted graphic and grotesque interrogation methods leaked to global media by prisoner testimonies, much to the chagrin of Moroccan authorities.
Paolo de Mas, an expert on Moroccan affairs, explains that Moroccan intelligence has been closely surveilling the Moroccan diaspora for their participation in demonstrations critical of Moroccan domestic policies and is actively asserting its intelligence muscle as it it feels threatened by dissidents living abroad.
According to Human Rights Watch, the Moroccan government has conducted mass arrests on the populations activists and salafists since the first Casablanca bombings in 2003. Mere suspicion of connections to terrorism or subversive activities are enough to warrant indefinite detention and torture. HRW claims that majority of such detainees are convicted and sentenced after unfair trials.