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Monday, 2 July, 2001, 10:44 GMT 11:44 UK
Moroccan acid bath inquiry call
Mehdi Ben Barka
Ben Barka is believed to have died under torture
By David Bamford in Rabat

Human rights groups in Morocco have demanded an inquiry following revelations surrounding the kidnapping and murder of 1960s opposition leader Mehdi Ben Barka.

The revelations, published in French and Moroccan newspapers at the weekend, have reopened demands about hundreds of other opposition activists who disappeared in the same decade.

The Ben Barka affair was one of the biggest political scandals in both France and Morocco.

Its revival more than 30 years later, following the publication of detailed confession by a senior Moroccan intelligence operative, has now provoked demands for new inquiries.

Acid bath

The subject was never mentioned officially in Morocco, as long as former King Hassan II was alive.

But shortly after his death in 1999, his son, Mohamed VI, expressed official regret about the disappearances.

Current Prime Minister Abderrahmane Youssouffi was an ally of Mehdi Ben Barka in 1965, the year that Mr Ben Barka was abducted in Paris and allegedly tortured to death.

His body was said to have been brought back to Morocco where, according to the weekend's revelations, it was dissolved in a specially built acid bath in a Moroccan detention centre.

Several human rights groups in Morocco are now demanding to know whether this is what also happened to those hundreds of opposition activists whose bodies were never found.

Cafe abduction

A leftist opposition leader, Mr Ben Barka was a thorn in the side of the Moroccan government in the 1960s at a time when the country was politically repressive and the new king, Hassan II, was trying to assert his authority.

Mr Ben Barka fled to France, whereupon a Moroccan court sentenced him in absentia to death.

Mr Ben Barka seemed set to live his life in exile until he was abducted in broad daylight from a Paris cafe.

He was never seen again, and his fate has been the subject of much speculation ever since.

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See also:

08 May 01 | Africa
Morocco prison abuses 'rampant'
18 Jun 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Morocco
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