Sister's fears for jailed siblings

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Sister's fears for jailed siblings

Post  Johannesburg on Fri Nov 06, 2009 5:51 am

Published Date: 06 November 2009

By HAZEL MOLLISON
A EDINBURGH woman fighting for the release of her human rights activist brother in Morocco was shocked to be told her sister had also been arrested.

Aicha Dahane, 35, who lives in Leith, is deeply concerned about her brother Brahim, who is being held in Moroccan prison.

Now she has been told that her older sister has been arrested, after trying to visit him. Salka, 46, a mother-of-eight, hasADVERTISEMENTbeen sentenced to two months in jail.

Her arrest coincides with the news that Brahim has been awarded the prestigious Per Anger prize by the Swedish government for his humanitarian work.

Aicha said she will have "mixed feelings" when she flies to Stockholm this month to collect the award on his behalf.

Edinburgh North and Leith MP Mark Lazarowicz is supporting the campaign for the pair's release. He has written to Foreign Secretary David Miliband, calling for him to put pressure on the Moroccan government.

Salka was arrested last week, and accused of trying to bring her brother money in jail. She was questioned for two days about his political activities.

Brahim, 43, is a long-standing campaigner against Western Sahara's occupation by Morocco. He was arrested last month, with six others, when they returned from visiting Western Saharan refugee camps in Algeria.

He has already spent four years in jail, where he claims he was tortured. This time, his family fear he could face life imprisonment or the death penalty.

Aicha had already been forced to flee her home country after taking part in demonstrations. She has now built a new life in Edinburgh, and will graduate from Napier University next week.

But she said Salka had never been involved in the campaign. She is fully occupied looking after her children, three of whom have learning disabilities.

Aicha said: "My sister had travelled 1,000km to visit him. She didn't know she wasn't allowed to bring money with her – she only had the equivalent of £39.

"We are all very worried about her. She has never done anything wrong. We are more concerned about her psychological state than anything else.

"This is very frightening for her. She is being kept in a prison cell with 16 other women, including drug addicts. She is desperately worried about her children."

She claims her sister did not have a fair trial.

She said: "I think they wanted to put pressure on Brahim. Even people in the court were saying it was unjust."

Control of Western Sahara has been disputed by the Moroccan government and the indigenous resistance movement since 1975. Most of its native population lives in refugee camps in nearby Algeria.

Mr Lazarowicz said: "I'm concerned to ensure that Mr Dahane has legal representation and a fair trial. I'm continuing to raise awareness about human rights issues in Western Sahara with the UK Foreign Office."

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