It is now suspected that Moroccan bribery may have led to a human rights activist from Western Sahara not making it to the shortlist of the prestigious Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought in 2021.
Sultana Khaya told the Italian newspaper, Il fatto quotidiano, how joyful she was to hear she had been nominated: ‘This candidacy seemed to me to be a great help. We needed someone to literally save our lives. This candidacy felt like an important link with the outside world.’
She went on: ‘After the rape I suffered [at the hands of the Moroccan security forces], discovering that behind my defeat in the Sakharov Prize is perhaps the manoeuvring of emissaries of the Moroccan government, with the complicity of European parliamentarians, is like having been raped for a second time.’
In December, an almighty scandal blew up in Brussels as police found evidence of massive corruption in the European parliament, paid for by Qatar – and by Morocco.
Morocco has illegally occupied Western Sahara since 1975. The European Union has made trading agreements with Morocco that (illegally) include the resources of occupied Western Sahara, including its coastal fishing areas.
On 18 January, the lawyer of Pier Antonio Panzeri, one of the four suspects in a Belgian jail, said the former MEP had confessed ‘to having actively participated in acts of corruption in connection with Qatar and in connection with Morocco.’
Over €600,000 in cash was reportedly found by police at Panzeri’s home.
Back in 2021, the Left group of MEPs had proposed Sultana Khaya for the European parliament’s Sakharov Prize.
The human rights defender was then under effective house arrest in Boujdour in Western Sahara. Moroccan security forces sexually assaulted both her and her sister and raided the house many times. (See PN 2660.)
The Social Democrat bloc in the European parliament was instructed by its leadership not to vote for Sultana for the Sakharov Prize, but to vote instead for the candidate put forward by the parliament’s far-right bloc. This was a very unusual step.
It’s now believed this decision was the result of corruption.
Despite evidence that Morocco was involved in corruption, the European parliament refused to name the kingdom in a December resolution that condemned Qatar.
An amendment naming Morocco as well was rejected by a majority of MEPs: 238 MEPs voted in favour of including it while 253 MEPs voted against (67 abstained).
While this crisis was exploding, Western Sahara Resources Watch revealed that the European commission is preparing a new EU-Morocco Fisheries Agreement to include, once again, the waters of occupied Western Sahara.