Morocco recalls ambassador from Netherlands over extradition row

June 26, 2017 10:56 am

Security forces arrest a demonstrator during a protest in support of the grassroots movement in the Rif region, in the capital, Rabat, , June 20, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Morocco has summoned its ambassador to over a dispute about the extradition of an alleged drug trafficker who is also accused of funding anti-government protests in northern Morocco.
The Moroccan Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Sunday that it had been in talks with the Dutch government in the past two days urging Amsterdam to extradite “a notorious drug trafficker,” whom Rabat said also funded “some groups in northern Morocco.”
The ministry named the man as Said Chaaou, a 50-year-old former parliamentarian from Morocco’s northern Rif region.
In the Sunday statement, the ministry suggested that Chaaou (pictured below) had been involved in supporting unrest in Rif.
“Specific information has been provided to the Dutch authorities for several months regarding the involvement of this trafficker in financing and providing logistical support to certain sectors in northern Morocco,” the Foreign Ministry said.
“It was made clear to the Dutch authorities that it is imperative that concrete and urgent measures be taken.”
A Moroccan court issued two arrest warrants against Chaaou, in 2010 and 2015, for criminal association and international drug trafficking.
The Netherlands, however, dismissed Morocco’s decision to recall its ambassador as “incomprehensible and unnecessary.”
Morocco’s Rif region has been the scene of protests since late last year, when a fishmonger was killed in circumstances potentially implicating authorities.
Meanwhile, a lawyer who is among a group of 300 lawyers detained for anti-government activities, said that Chaaou had no ties with the protest movement in Rif.
Abdessadak Elbouchattaoui dismissed as “rumors” reports that Chaaou provided funding and logistical support to Hirak al-Chaabi, or the Popular Movement, which has spearheaded popular protests in Rif.

Protesters of the movement “Hirak” demonstrate against the Moroccan government, in Rif, June 11, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

On Saturday, Chaaou published a video on his Facebook page in which he criticized government officials for their treatment of people in his native Rif region.
Authorities have arrested as many as 100 leaders and members of Hirak al-Chaabi since the end of May.
Morocco, a country with high unemployment and poverty rates, has been ruled by a monarch for 350 years.
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