US -Western Sahara Foundation Welcomes Release of Moroccan POWs; Calls for Morocco to Release all Sahrawi POWs and Political Prisoners

The US-Western Sahara Foundation welcomed the imminent release of Moroccan POWs by the Polisario, but simultaneously called for Morocco to reciprocate by releasing the 151 Sahrawis it has held during the same period, as well as the 1,700 political prisoners that have been seized in occupied Western Sahara.

"Just recently in May, Morocco violently crushed a peaceful demonstration for self-determination in occupied Western Sahara by rounding up hundreds of Sahrawis, breaking into homes and beating men, women and children," explained US Western Sahara Foundation Chairman Suzanne Scholte. Today, five Sahrawis remain in prison: Noumria Brahim, Lidri El Houssein, El Arbi Messaoud , Moutawakil Mohamed and Ali Salem Tamek and they have now have joined the list of 1,700 who have disappeared during Morocco's brutal occupation of Western Sahara which began when it invaded the country in 1975.

"While the Polisario have accounted for every single POW they have held and allowed regular visits by the International Red Cross, the Moroccans continue to deny access to the Sahrawis that are held in Morocco's infamous jails, as well as deny access by the international community to the occupied territory," said Carlos Wilson, Executive Director of the USWSF. "Moroccan-Occupied Western Sahara is essentially shut off from the rest of the world."

Several planeloads of parliamentarians from Spain and Europe, who recently traveled to the occupied territory to investigate Morocco's abuses against the Sahrawis, were forced to turn back when Moroccan authorities would not allow them to deplane. During the same period, journalists from Spain and Norway were deported for trying to report about the issue.

The Polisario has done the right thing by releasing these POWs and reuniting them with their families," said Scholte. "It is time for Morocco to do the same: release the Sahrawis and end its brutal occupation of Western Sahara, so that the Sahrawi families can be reunited as well."

The U.S. Western Sahara Foundation, a non-profit, education organization, was established in 1999 by American citizens from all walks of life and political philosophies, who support the long-promised U.N. referendum on Sahrawi self-determination.

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