Morocco: Watching the European Berbers

The Moroccan Secret Service's attempts to recruit spies in the Netherlands has angered the Dutch government. And in Morocco, the espionage affair has provoked heated discussion. It seems that Morocco feels threatened by the Berber population living abroad and wants to monitor the life of its second-class citizens in foreign countries. Most of the Moroccans living in the Netherlands are Berbers from the Rif region.

The furore erupted after the dismissal of the Rotterdam police officer, Re Lemhaouli, following allegations that the policeman had been passing information to the Moroccan Secret Service via the embassy in The Hague. The Dutch government protested to the Moroccan Embassy. This week, the Dutch current affairs TV programme NOVA revealed that Rabat had recalled two its diplomats two months ago, after receiving the complaints about the alleged espionage. Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen has made it very clear that he does not appreciate Morocco's interference in internal Dutch affairs. The Dutch parliament is to hold an emergency debate on the affair next week.  

It has since transpired that the Rotterdam police officer is not the only person to have been approached. Fouad el Haji, a Labour local councillor, claims that he was also contacted, "just like a former Dutch MP of Moroccan origin." Mr el Haji was apparently referring to former Socialist Party MP Ali Lazrak, who denies having been approached himself, adding that "it was well known that the Moroccan Secret Service was active in the Netherlands" and that other prominent politicians of Moroccan origin were asked to lend their co-operation.

A colleague at Radio Netherlands Worldwide confirms that certain Dutch citizens of Moroccan origin are routinely approached by the secret service. "The Moroccan government approached me years ago, when I first came to live in the Netherlands," says the journalist and describes the way Rabat works as: "Scary. First, I got a call on behalf of the Moroccan ambassador asking if I wanted to help improve the image of Morocco here." The journalist declined, but was "accosted by the press attaché at a conference", though he was able to brush the embassy staff member aside. Afterwards the journalist was rung again, once at work and once at home.


Source: Radio Netherlands (English)

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