Kaddour Terhzaz, a 73 year old retired high-ranking military officer, has spent two years behind bars in Salé prison for “divulging military secrets”.
Amnesty International believes he is a victim of arbitrary detention, convicted solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression.
Initially imprisoned in November 2008, Kaddour Terhzaz has been held in solitary confinement since November 2009, and has ten more years to serve on his sentence. Despite his advanced age he sleeps on a blanket, and is not permitted a mattress. He suffers from high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and requires medication and regular health-checks. With the winter approaching, his family are very concerned about his health.
Mr Terhzaz was convicted on the basis of a letter he sent to King Mohamed VI calling on him to improve the situation of former pilots who had been held captive by the Polisario Front, which calls for the independence of Western Sahara, a territory that Morocco annexed in 1975.
He also gave the letter to Ali Najab, a former pilot and captive of the Polisario Front who was active in lobbying for better treatment of former prisoners of war in Morocco.
The “confidential” information that led to his conviction was his claim that Moroccan planes were not equipped with anti-missile systems at the time of the conflict between Morocco and the Polisario Front from 1975 to 1991.
Amnesty International believes that revealing information that Moroccan planes lacked an anti-missile system at the time of the conflict between Morocco and the Polisario Front does not represent a genuine threat to national security, particularly as a ceasefire has been in place since 1991.
Kaddour Terhzaz was arrested on 9 November 2008 in Rabat. On 28 November, he was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment by a military court for threatening Morocco’s “external security” through divulging a secret of “national defence”.
His conviction represents an unjustified restriction on freedom of expression under international human rights law.
Further, Kaddour Terhzaz' trial in front of the military court did not fully meet international fair trial standards. The principal defence witness was not called to testify, and the trial was held too rapidly after the arrest for the defence to be adequately prepared.
Sonia Terhzaz, his daughter, said to Amnesty International : “Our father should not be spending his retirement dying in prison at the age of 73, especially when “his crime” was only expressing his opinion…. We hope that your messages and your help will prompt our father’s release.”