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Last Updated: Monday, 27 August 2007, 19:37 GMT 20:37 UK
Morocco's strongman dies in Paris
By David Bamford
BBC Africa editor

Driss Basri, pictured in 2004 in Paris
Driss Basri spent his last eight years away from Morocco
One of Morocco's best known political figures during the rule of the late King Hassan II, Driss Basri, has died in a Paris hospital aged 69.

As interior minister for 20 years, Mr Basri was head of Morocco's security services at a time when thousands of dissidents were tortured and killed.

He was sacked in 1999 within months of the King Hassan's death by his young successor, Mohammed VI.

He died after eight years of self-imposed exile in France.

The cause of death was not immediately clear, although he is thought to have been suffering from a long-term illness.

Royal survival

As head of the security and intelligence services, Mr Basri controlled a system that relied on torture and political murder to suppress opponents of the monarchy.

Mr Basri, King Hassan's close ally and strongman for two decades, never apologised.

For him, the task at hand was to ensure the survival of Morocco's royal line at a time when elsewhere in the region - in Libya, Egypt and Iraq - the monarchies were falling one by one.

But his detractors say he should have faced justice for the thousands of political disappearances during his time of liberals, Islamists, Saharan separatists and any other group that sought to bring about change in Morocco.

His legacy is that Morocco's monarchy - albeit a more liberal one - continues to this day.

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