Nine Days and Counting... Mustapha Salma Ould Sidi Mouloud Still Not Free

Oct 15, 2010, 17:42 ET from Moroccan American Center for Policy

US Senator, Amnesty International, Father Express Concern, Fears for Safety of Outspoken Sahrawi Leader, Nine Days After Polisario Promised Release

WASHINGTON, Oct. 15 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Nine days after the Polisario Front's promised release, there is still no public confirmation on the whereabouts of outspoken Sahrawi leader, Mustapha Salma Ould Sidi Mouloud.

US Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is the latest member of Congress to write to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, joining Amnesty International and Mustapha Salma's father and brother in expressing continuing concern and fear for the safety of the Polisario chief police inspector, imprisoned in Algeria last month. He was arrested Sept. 21 on charges of "treason" and "espionage" as he tried to rejoin his wife and four children in the Tindouf refugee camps and speak out in favor of Morocco's compromise autonomy plan to end the 35-year-old Western Sahara conflict. The arrest sparked an outcry from the international human rights community, and on October 6 the Polisario announced he was being released.

In her letter to Clinton, Sen. Feinstein said she was concerned for the safety and well-being of Mustapha Salma.  Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, requested State Department assistance in obtaining information about his continued safety and that of his family.

Amnesty International said in a statement that the absence of any news on the Sahrawi leader since the Polisario announced his release was "raising fears about his safety," adding the Polisario had "clamped down on dissent." Human Rights Watch also expressed "concern" the Sahrawi leader "has not yet been released."  

Feinstein's letter noted that Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Leadership Council for Human Rights, and UN High Commissioner for Refugees were among the international human rights advocates criticizing the Polisario for Mustapha Salma's arrest. Other US Senate and House members also spoke out.

The Sahrawi leader's father, Ismaili Moulay Salma Ould Sidi Mouloud and his brother Mohammed were in the US this week. "I appeal to the President of the United States, Barack Obama, human rights organizations, and all free people to help us release my son and end the ordeal endured by the Tindouf camps' populations," the father said, who "fears the worst" for his son.  

"Nine days ago the Polisario told the world they would free Mustapha Salma, but they have not," said Robert Holley, Executive Director, Moroccan American Center for Policy.  "Continuing to hold him after committing to his release is simply outrageous. There is no excuse for denying his family and international observers direct access to him immediately, to assure his physical condition and safety and that he is not being coerced or abused in custody. Until the Polisario and Algeria make good on their word, international and US human rights advocates need to continue calling on them to free Mustapha Salma."

The Sahrawi leader was kidnapped as a boy from Smara, southern Morocco by Polisario raiders who killed four family members. He was reunited with his father for the first time in 31 years on a UN-sponsored family visit to southern Morocco this summer.  Seeing the progress in Morocco's Sahara provinces, he vowed to return to the camps and voice his support to refugees for Morocco's autonomy plan to end the Sahara dispute.

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SOURCE Moroccan American Center for Policy