RABAT: A Moroccan court on Friday convicted all defendants for their role in a cafe bombing that killed 17 people, mostly tourists, sentencing the chief suspect to death.
The court erupted into chaos with the reading of the verdicts following five hours of deliberation. Families of the defendants shouted that they were unjust while the relatives of the victims wept and hugged each other.
Prosecutors had accused Adel Al Othmani of dressing like a tourist and planting the bomb in the Argana cafe, before setting it off with his mobile phone. He was convicted of premeditated murder and building explosives, among other charges.
The April 28 blast killed eight French tourists in addition to British, Swiss, Moroccan and Portuguese victims.
The court handed down a life prison term for Othmani’s associate, Hakim Dah, and gave four-year terms for four other defendants charged with having knowledge of the crime. Three were given two-year prison terms.
Police cleared the court of the families of the accused, who then demonstrated outside the courtroom. The sister of Othmani began banging her head against the windows of the courthouse in grief and had to be restrained by her relatives.
“We saw our brother the morning of April 28,” screamed Othmani’s brother hysterically as he ran out of the courtroom. “Morocco is a country that kills, it wants to kill my brother,” he yelled at people walking by along the busy street.
Before the verdict was issued, Othmani and the other defendants were given a last chance to address the court. All said they were innocent.
“They’ve arrested an innocent man to sort out their own political problems,” said Othmani to the judge. The arrests came as Morocco was swept by a wave of pro-democracy protests demanding political reform.
Abdul Hamid Bettar, the spokesman for the defendants’ families, said they would appeal the sentence.
“It is an injustice, my brother did nothing, neither did the others,” he said as other relatives shouted around him outside the courthouse.
Relatives of the victims were present for all the court sessions and some burst into tears, in apparent relief, over the verdict. Others, however, expressed anger over the lesser sentences.