Among the dozens of detainees who” resided” in Tazmamert, none were as intriguing as the Bourequat Brothers. Bayazid, Ali and Midhat were arrested in 1973; spent few years in special detention centers before being sent to Tazmamart in 1981. The three brothers would stay incarcerated for 18 years.
The Bourequats trace their origins to Turkey from where the patriarch of the family left for Morocco via Tunis. Ali, Bayazid and Midhat were all born in Morocco but hold French citizenship. According to Ali, his mother had family ties to the late King Hassan II and had access to the Royal Palace during her life. Further more, the Bourequat father was close to the late King Mohamed V and played a key role in setting up the early Moroccan intelligence services. Obviously, the Bourequat brothers had privileges and access in Morocco. They lived the good life and enjoyed every bit of it. They used their prominent connections to mange several successful businesses up until their arrests and subsequent confinements. No wonder, they were surprised by their capture.
Upon their arrival to Tazmamert where they joined few existing “residents”, the Bourequats stood out. In fact, the brothers were among the rare civilians in detention. Never the less, most of the jailed military enjoyed their company. As the former Tazmamert detainee Ahmed El Marzouki would tell Al-Jazeera network, Ali Bourequat, who has an amazing memory, would take all his former cellmates in ‘tourist tours” of major Western Capital. Ali would later tell me how he would relive and share in vivid details his visits to Paris, New York and Rome. The Bourequats brought a rare relief to a desperate bunch of forgotten souls.
The capture and incarceration of the Bourequats without due process has been an enigma. The official reason given by Rabat was never concise as it stated that the brothers were involved in some type of espionage activities and represented a threat to National security. However, statements given to the French press by Ali concerning his knowledge of details surrounding the disappearance of the exiled Moroccan opposition figure Mehdi Ben Barka in Paris in 1965 raise more questions than answers. Ali seems in the know.
After their release from Tazmamert, the Bourequat brothers moved to Paris where the French government was not to eager to discuss their ordeal. After all, they are French citizens that felt abandoned by their government while they were melting away in a secret detention center in Morocco. Now, Ali lives in Texas where he was admitted as a political refugee, while his brothers stayed put in France.
Even tough Morocco had tormented the Bourequats, Ali and Bayazid had longed for a visit to their homeland. It was to happen for Bayazid who took the trip after the arrival to the Throne of King Mohamed VI. During my meeting with Bayazid in Rabat, I noticed a twinkle in his eyes as he able to reunite with several of his friends who were so happy to see him and welcomed his presence. It was an emotional trip.
As Morocco continues to close this dark and sad chapter of its history, Moroccan officials should not repeat the same mistakes while the country faces the danger of “politically motivated” violence. While it is the duty of the government to protect its citizens and ensure law and order, due process and fair trials should not go by the way side for the sake of security. While the danger confronting Morocco today is different than the one from the Bourequats days, the risks to the Moroccan authorities of making the same mistakes are real and present. The Moroccan authorities should insure that the current trials of members of “Islamic movements” such as “Assalafiya” and “Belarej cell” are transparent, fair and open. The New Morocco can not afford the shame of having another Tazmamert in the Twenty First century.