Tuesday, May 17, 2005

CASABLANCA, Morocco - Ahmed Boukhari, a former intelligence officer, said he worked for two decades in the department charged with keeping files on Moroccans who were kidnapped, tortured and killed as part of a reign of oppression.

“We knew what we were doing was outside the law. But we were obeying orders,” Mr. Boukhari said at his home in Casablanca.

Mr. Boukhari served in the notorious “Cab 1” countersubversion unit, as Morocco’s intelligence service was called between 1960 and 1973.

He said that of the 300 agents who worked in the intelligence service during the 1950s and 1960s, 250 committed brutal crimes and 45 to 50 of them are still alive, up to 10 of them still holding senior positions.

“Between 2002 and 2003, the last of the Cab 1 officials retired. Those in power now are their students who were trained in the 1980s and 1990s,” he said.

Mr. Boukhari said he has offered to testify before the truth commission investigating human-rights abuses, but has had no response. He said that up to 20,000 people were “captured” during the reign of King Hassan II, who died in 1999, and “there’s no trace of about 1,500 of them. No grave.”

He said he knows, because he was “in charge of the files of the kidnappings, torture and everything like that” from 1957 to 1977.

“I took part in these crimes, both directly and indirectly. But I was not personally involved in the kidnappings and torture,” he said. “I was responsible for the files. But I did take part in the disappearance of Ben Barka and knew the truth.”

Mr. Boukhari has published two books on Mehdi Ben Barka, the popular opposition leader who was shot in Paris in 1965 in an execution said to have been planned by the Moroccan secret service. Mr. Boukhari said the body was brought back to Morocco and thrown into an acid tank to destroy the evidence.

Mr. Boukhari said he wrote the books and met with victims and their families starting in 2001 because “I wanted to clear my conscience.”

He calls the state-appointed truth commission a charade and says the government of King Mohammed VI is hoping to buy time until all the perpetrators and victims are dead.

“Then he will close the book. I am now 66, and I was one of the younger ones. Most are over 75. When we all die, we will bury [the truth] with us.”

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