Senator Urges U.S. Inquiry Into 'Very Troubling Incident' of Sahrawi Leader Jailed by Polisario for Speaking Out to End Sahara Conflict

Oct 08, 2010, 16:30 ET from Moroccan American Center for Policy

Outspoken police chief reportedly to be freed, but may not be free to return to Tindouf refugee camps in Algeria to see his family or speak for peace with other Sahrawis

WASHINGTON, Oct. 8 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- U.S. Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY) wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, joining other Congress members and international human rights advocates expressing concern for the safety of Mustapha Salma Ould Sidi Mouloud, the outspoken Sahrawi leader whose whereabouts are still unknown. The Polisario Front said Wednesday it would release him following his Sept. 21 arrest and imprisonment in Algeria. Senator Bunning asked Sec. Clinton to inquire into this "very troubling incident" of the Polisario's jailing of its own Chief Police Inspector.  Mustapha Salma was charged with "treason" and "espionage" as he was on his way to rejoin his family in the Tindouf refugee camps in Algeria and speak out in favor of Morocco's compromise autonomy plan to end the decades-long Western Sahara conflict.

"I am writing to express my concern for the safety and well-being of Mustapha Salma Ould Sidi Mouloud," Sen. Bunning wrote Clinton. He said while the Polisario statement on "the release of Mr. Sidi Mouloud is good news, it is a very troubling incident. Your assistance in obtaining information on his continued safety, and that of his family, would be greatly appreciated."  He also asked Sec. Clinton for "any other information on how and why this detention occurred."

Bunning noted Mustapha Salma was on a trip in southern Morocco sponsored by the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). After seeing the progress in Morocco's Sahara provinces, which he was visiting for the first time in 31 years, Mustapha Salma vowed to return to the refugee camps and voice his support for Morocco's autonomy plan to end the 35-year Western Sahara dispute. Bunning pointed out that prominent international human rights groups—including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Leadership Council for Human Rights, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) were critical of the arrest. Other U.S. Senate and House of Representatives members have also spoken out.

Earlier this week, Mustapha Salma's father and brother made personal appeals in New York City to the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and international human rights groups to ensure the Mustapha Salma was freed from prison to be with his family and free to speak his mind to refugees still in the camps in Algeria. The father and brother live in Smara, southern Morocco, where Mustapha Salma was kidnapped as a young boy by Polisario raiders who killed four family members.

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SOURCE Moroccan American Center for Policy