21 February 2013 – The ITF has condemned as ‘utterly unbelievable’ a totally unexpected decision by a court in Morocco to jail trade union leaders Said Elhairech and Mohamed Chamchati.
Elhairech the general secretary of the Moroccan Ports Union, part of the ITF-affiliated UMT, and chair of the ITF Arab World regional committee, was arrested in June 2012 on charges of ‘sabotage and endangering national security’. He utterly rejected the accusations and was supported throughout by the ITF, which was unequivocal in its stance that he had been wrongly targeted following his very effective work on behalf of crews stranded by the cessation of operations of the Comarit-Comanav ferry company – which he undertook at the ITF’s request. In October all charges except one minor one were dropped and his innocence proven.
Despite this he has been sentenced to a year’s imprisonment by the criminal Court of First Instance in Rabat, which charged him with participating in obstructing freedom of action according to article 288 of the Moroccan Criminal Code (criminalisation of trade union action). He will appeal.
Mohamed Chamchati, the general secretary of the Moroccan merchant seafarers’ union, was also unjustly arrested in June 2012 on clearly mistaken charges linked to the cessation of operations of the Comarit-Comanav company. In November he and others were released without charge.
Now he too has reportedly been sentenced to two and a half years imprisonment. More details of that decision are expected soon.
ITF president Paddy Crumlin stated: “These sentences defy belief. Last year Said and Mohamed faced serious, cooked-up charges of sabotage and endangering national security. Following worldwide protests led by the ITF those ridiculous charges were rightly dropped. Now, in a shocking breach of trust and logic they have once again come under legal attack for their legitimate trade union work in defence of workers rights.”
He continued: “These men are guilty of nothing more than being effective trade unionists. We will fight these unjust and idiotic decisions all the way.”