Moroccan Jihadis from Within Prison

Jihādee detainees comprising cells and organisations which possess the Takfīrī ideology and orchestrate terrorist operations aimed as state institutions, economic interests and the tourist industry. They were arrested and prosecuted based on terrorism-related files and most of them were arrested after the terrorist bombings which rocked the city of Casablanca on 16th May 2003. It is worth noting that the number of terrorist cells which were dismantled since the Casablanca bombings on 2003 were no less than one hundred. A figure which reflects the real danger and alarming threat posed by these elements against the security of Morocco and over the course of time those detainees conducted hunger strikes so as to pressure the state to answer their demands of unrestricted and unconditional freedom or retrial. The state dealt with them kindly and gave them preferential treatment in comparison to other prisoners for other crimes in that they were allowed things within prison which other prisoners were not allowed. This is to the extent that other prisoners informed human rights observers that they too wished that they were terrorist offenders so that they too could partake in the perks of the terrorist prisoners! This was noted in an article in the New York Times in one of its reports which described the condition of such prisoners as one in which they do not feel detention due to the large margin of freedom they enjoy from such perks as choosing their own clothes to wear to transferring to prisons which have more Jihādees in them and in which their rules operate more. The newspaper report also mentioned that:

Down the hall, Hassan Kettani, a Islamic theorist renowned in global jihad circles, declined to be interviewed on videotape — until he changed out of his everyday clothes.

A few minutes later, he sauntered down to the lobby, unescorted, and posed in a white robe and golden headdress. “We were in very bad shape when we were captured,” he said of the days before the first hunger strike. “It was hard.”

This changed and the Takfeerees gained more freedom as the New York Times report stated that:

Cellblock 5, where many of the militants live, functions like a small village. The inmates hold boxing matches. Sheep are slaughtered for the holidays. In one of the two kitchens, a cook proudly displayed his cutlery and an array of containers that held fresh deliveries from inmates’ families.

Other rights included:

At Zaki, one of two prisons where The Times interviewed militant inmates and prison officials, the 309 prisoners held as terrorists have much more space — averaging 3 men in each cell, compared with 22 per cell for the prison’s 3,500 regular inmates, a prison official said.

The Jihādī Shaykhs have a number of distinct perks within the jail:

Ahmed Rafiki sprawled on the makeshift couch in his cell, a fresh red henna dye in his long hair and beard.
Known to other militants as the father of Moroccan jihadists, he was convicted in 2003 of leading young men to fight Americans in Afghanistan. But here in Oukacha Prison, Mr. Rafiki, an Islamist cleric, is serving the final months of his sentence in style.

His kitchen and larder are stocked three times a week by his two wives. His curtained doorway leads to a private garden and bath. He has two radios and a television, a reading stand for his Koran and a wardrobe of crisply ironed Islamic attire.

This is not only the situation in the az-Zākī Prison rather it is the case in all prisons, the governor of the ’Ukāsha Prison in Dār ul-Baydā’ stated to the al-Hurriyah newspaper that the prisoners use of conjugal rooms in line with Divinely Legislated Khalwah is “allowed for them on a daily basis from six in the morning.” Not to mention “the cell doors being open 24 hours a day”. These rights and privileges which only the Jihādī prisoners possess do not make them fear the government or give any weight to state systems and institutions. What gives such prisoners the feeling of power is the humility which the prison authorities show to those offenders. None of the prison employees are able to issue any rule or implement any legal item because, as highlighted by some newspapers prior, that one prison in particular has been defined by some Jihādī prisoners as an “Emirate” possessing its own “leaders” and “governments” as it were.

It also has its own laws and system which renders their wings no-go areas for the governor or his assistants. Unsurprisingly, in this unique situation, non-terror related prisoners become servants and suitors for the extremist Shaykhs within the prison Emirate. Who can impose respect for the law within prison? In the Sabiyyah Prison due to the lack of routine surveillance from the security Salafi-Jihādī prisoners dug a 30 metre tunnel and removed tons of sand and dust under the eyes of security and cleaners. This enabled ten of them to escape and after this the prison authorities reviewed the manner of arrest of these prisoners and the privileges they enjoy. The Moroccan Ministry of Justice also allowed for Islamic scholars to discuss issues with such prisoners so as to correct their Takfīrī beliefs and encourage them to recant. However, such dialogue did not occur from the side of the ’Ulama as they did not engage in dialogue for subjective reasons; and from the side of the extremism of the prisoners who described those ’Ulama as “government scholars” as a dispraise and accusation against them. The prisoners also had some conditions which they put forth prior to any dialogue, as a result they clung to their beliefs and rejected any review of their methodology in a way which has occurred with similar such prisoners in Egypt, Libya, Mauritania and Saudi Arabia. In order to overcome the status of the prisoners the Advisory Council for Human Rights suggested a solution which required such prisoners to request pardon from the King and declare their retraction and repentance for their Takfīrī beliefs. However, very few of them sought pardon possibly for two reasons: firstly the king, according to their Takfīrī beliefs is a Tāghūt who does not rule by what Allāh has revealed and a disbeliever for using man-made laws from the Jews and Christians as legislation to rule by other than Allāh’s Divine Legislation.

In a foundational statement issued by the “Moroccan Islamic Group for Tawheed and Jihad” [al-Jama’at ul-Islāmiyyah li’t-Tawheed wa’l-Jihād fi’l-Maghrib al-Aqsā], a group which 28 of its members were arrested by Moroccan security authorities in February 2007:

We believe that the man-made systems which are present in Islamic lands are kufr and extracted from the legal codes of Jews and Christians which they laid down to rival Allāh in His Hākimiyyah. Those who act in accordance with these systems, acknowledge them and adjudicate by them are Mushrikoon and we believe in the kufr of the ruler who substitutes Allāh’s Divine Legislation with kufr legislations and legal codes. The ruler who places himself as a partner alongside Allāh in regards to legislation and legislates codes which oppose Allāh’s Divine Legislation.
For this reason such prisoner refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of the government’s offer of pardon and according to them requesting pardon is acceptance of adjudicating to a disbelieving leader. As for the second reason which led to those prisoners refusing to seek pardon is that it would be a recognition of the crime of ruling by man-made laws. As a result, such prisoners do not view that they have committed any crimes whatsoever and that they have neither opposed the Divine Legislation or the civil law code. In fact, they view themselves as completely innocent and that their imprisonment is merely as part of the war on terror strategy placed on Morocco by the US and other western states. It was mentioned in a letter to the King of Morocco written by some prisoners from the ’Ukāshah Prison in Casablanca in November 2009:

“We write to you and you have been given authority by Allāh over the country and to secure the interests of the Moroccan nation. After seven years of patience with the system and the injustice meted out to us and our families who have been displaced and had their rights taken away from them and have been dishonoured as we have, as has been testified to by all; so after the long wait for justice after being thrown in prison based on flimsy evidence we emphasise our innocence in front of Allāh and then in front of you and all of our Moroccan people. We request that you and the institutions responsible remove this oppression with what Allāh has given you from executive authority.”

From the logic of those prisoners is that it is rather the government which needs to review and retract its errors by freeing them and apologising for that! Furthermore, the government should pay compensation due to the psychological and physical harm endured by the prisoners during their imprisonment. To this end, the prisoners formulated a special human rights framework as emphasised in their initial statement:

“We direct this to whoever is responsible to highlight the importance of our requests which we represent in this letter and Allāh is Ever-Dominant in His affairs however most of the people do not know.

– A request to cancel the legal codes related to fighting terrorism and all that which dishonours our respect and takes away our freedom

– The immediate closure of the prisons Temāra and ’Aqībat ul-Ma’ārif due to them both being symbols of a dark stage in our country’s modern history.

– For the senior prison officers responsible for our torture to be held accountable

– Our unrestricted and unconditional release with the appropriate accompanying remuneration and rehabilitation”

In front of those prisoners insistence on dialogue in relation to their issue and so as to avoid prison overcrowding after a group of them tried to commit suicide on 25th November, the state has to treat their situation seriously depending on the prisoners’ approaches given the fact that some of them have innocent people’s blood on their hands so for this category there is no debate and no amnesty. This faction of prisoners disowned the prisoners who the initiative of Abū Hafs entitled “Be Just to Us” which was distributed by the Maqrīzī Centre for Historical Studies and authored by “The Prisoners of Tawheed and Jihād in Moroccan Prisons”. It was said that 16 prisoners close to Shaykh Abū Hafs reviewed their ideas while the other prisoners did not agree with this.
The second faction of prisoners maintains their innocence and announced their acknowledgement of the king’s legitimacy and their not rebelling against him and their respect for the Moroccan people. This group can possibly be reviewed and discussed with to confirm their innocence and freedom from Takfīrī beliefs and the culture of hatred. The Saudi experience will be beneficial in understanding how to treat the ideology of such prisoners and how to discuss with them with the aim of correcting their beliefs.