A Moroccan appeals court has sentenced a Frenchman to four years in prison after he was convicted of financially supporting a “terrorist” cell, a case that has alarmed rights groups.
Thomas Gallay, a 36-year-old engineer, was detained in February 2016 in the resort of Essaouira on Morocco’s Atlantic Coast.
He was initially given six years in jail but the sentence was reduced on appeal by a court in Sale near Rabat on Wednesday evening.
International rights groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch in November voiced concern about the case and what they called “convictions based on tainted ‘confessions’,” in Morocco.
“In Morocco, even if the police prevent you from reading your ‘confession’ or type it in a language you don’t understand — once you sign, you’re basically on an express train to prison,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.
According to the Frenchman’s mother Beatrice Gallay, he was accused of giving 70 euros ($74) to an acquaintance involved in the case.
She said that her son had been convicted on the basis of “false confessions” that he was asked by police to sign in Arabic, even though he does not understand the language.
She said her son had not converted to Islam and had later denied making the purported confession.
The prosecutor argued in the final indictment that all procedures were carried out in accordance with the law, denouncing the “lies of the foreign press” about the case.
“Morocco faces the terrorism threat and the entire security apparatus is mobilized for this,” he added.
“Many foreigners are coming to Morocco to try to carry out attacks on behalf of ISIL,” he said.
Eight co-defendants also saw their convictions upheld and were sentenced to up to 20 years in prison.