Sunday, November 27, 2005


A French magistrate looking into the disappearance in Paris 40 years ago of Moroccan opposition leader Mehdi Ben Barka arrived in Rabat Sunday, the interior ministry said.

Patrick Ramael was originally due in Morocco at the end of October but postponed his visit at the request of the authorities until after the end of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan.

He is due to go to Casablanca to meet Moroccan magistrate Jalal Sarhane, in charge of the Moroccan end of the inquiry into the disappearance in October 1965 of Mehdi Ben Barka, the leader of the Moroccan left and opponent of the late King Hassan II, kidnapped in Paris outside a famous restaurant.

He is believed to have been murdered but his body was never found and the affair remains a mystery.

Sources in Paris said Ramael was due to interview a number of people in Morocco under the terms of an international warrant, provided for by a bilateral agreement.

Ramael will be talking to people who were unavailable for questioning by previous French investigators examining the case, they said.

His visit comes shortly before the final drafting of a report by the "Instance Equité et Reconcialition" on human rights violations in Morocco between 1956 and 1999.

The committee has spent 18 months investigating the issue and should give an indication of its findings on Wednesday.

In October 2004 the French defence authorities agreed to declassify information they held about the Ben Barka affair.


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