Spanish paedophile was ‘probably spy’: Reports

The recent pardoning of a Spanish paedophile by Morocco's King Mohamad VI came in the wake of requests from Spain's secret services, Moroccan and Spanish media have reported.

Spanish paedophile was 'probably spy': Reports
Angry protesters in Rabat, Morocco, protest the release of a Spanish paedophile after he was pardoned by the Moroccan King Mohammed VI. Photo: Fadel Senna/AFP

Morocco's King Mohamad VI released 48 Spanish prisoners in the wake of a recent visit by King Juan Carlos of Spain to the country.

Among these prisoners was a Spanish paedophile convicted of raping 11 children.

The decision to release the man unleashed a storm of protest in the north African county with protests taking place across the country.

Moroccan police on Friday dispersed a crowd of several thousand people in Rabat protesting against a royal pardon.

Dozens of people including photographers and reporters were injured in clashes with authorities, who stepped in to prevent the protest in front of the parliament building in the capital Rabat.

Protesters slammed the pardon as "an international shame" with one demonstrator saying the state "defends the rape of Moroccan children".

But new reports suggest the 60-year-old man may have actually been a spy.

"The paedophile was released on the request of Spain's secret services," Morocco's Lakome news site reported on Friday, citing Moroccan sources close to the matter.

Spain's Justice Minister Mustapha Ramid confirmed in a statement that the prisoner had been freed for "reasons of national security".

This "was current practice between friendly nations," the statement added.

"This (pardon) was an agreement between the DGED (the Moroccan secret service) and it's Spanish equivalent, the National Intelligence Centre (CNI)," a Moroccan source told El Pais.

"The Spaniards insisted that he be put in the list and they achieved this," the source told the Spanish paper.

According to El Pais, the convicted paedophile told his lawyer, Mohamed Benjedou, that he was an official of the Iraqi army who had collaborated with foreign secret services in the downfall of Sadam Hussein.

But the lawyer also told the daily the man had worked as professor of Ocean Sciences at Spain's Murcia University.

"I didn't believe him because it's impossible he did both those things at the same time in places so far apart," Benjedou said.

El Pais also reported that the name being given to the paedophile was probably not his real name.

The paper said the man had been born in the Iraqi city of Basra in 1950 to Iraqi parents.

In Moroccan penal documentation, he was listed as a "Spaniard of Iraqi origin".

The name the paedophile was going by could have been a name made up by Spanish secret services when they extracted him from Iraq and provided him with document saying he was a retired professor from Murcia, the Spanish paper suggested.

A search by the daily found no sign of man going by the paedophile's name among databases of the Spanish education system.

El Pais said the man had probably provided intelligence on Iraq over a long period to Spain's security services or to other intelligence agencies.

This was why CNI had pushed for his release, the centre-left daily argued.

The Spanish paedophile was released on Morocco's annual Throne Day, which celebrates Morocco's ruling family.

The royal family of the north African country have remained silent about the scandal, which the Lakome new site has chosen to label DanielGate, a reference to the paedophile's first name.

One young woman at Friday's protests against the paedophile's release told AFP: "This is the first time I have been to a demonstration because I am outraged by this pardon which has set this paedophile free."

Hakim Sikouk, who also took part in the Rabat protest, told AFP: "I was with a group of friends in front of the parliament when the police intervened violently. I was hit on the head."

Similar demonstrations were broken up earlier Friday in the northern cities of Tangiers and Tetouan.

In June, thousands of Moroccans marched in Casablanca to condemn paedophilia and violence against children in the north African country.

On June 20, police arrested a suspected British paedophile after local residents overheard the screams from a six-year-old girl he allegedly abducted.

And in May, a Casablanca court jailed a 60-year-old Frenchman for 12 years after convicting him of paedophilia.

Abdelali Hamiddine, a senior member of the ruling moderate Islamist Party of Justice and Development, said the pardon was a "mistake".

"Moroccans have the right to demonstrate when they feel humiliated and the authorities do not have the right to step in so violently," he added.

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Morocco puts brakes on migrant flow as Spain and EU pay out

The number of migrants arriving by sea in Spain has plunged with Morocco stopping boat departures since signing lucrative agreements with Madrid and Brussels, experts say.

Morocco puts brakes on migrant flow as Spain and EU pay out
Migrants climbed over the fence in Ceuta to reach Spain earlier this month.Photo: AFP

So far this year 15,683 migrants have arrived by sea, 45 percent down on the first eight months of 2018, according to Spanish interior ministry figures.   

Spain became the main entry point for migrants seeking a better life in Europe in 2018 after Italy closed its ports and Greece began sending migrants back to Turkey under a 2016 agreement with the European Union (EU).

But that is no longer the case. The most used migrant sea route to Europe is once again from the  eastern Mediterranean to Greece,  the International Organization for Migration (IOM) says.

Moroccan authorities are stopping boats from setting sail to Spain “whereas before they let them leave”, said Jose Encinas of the AUGC Guardia Civil police association in the southern region of Andalusia where most migrants

A migration expert at an international organisation, who asked not to be named, said: “Moroccan maritime police have deployed means at strategic spots, especially in the north” to curb migrant departures to Spain.

'Migration card'

Eduard Soler, a North Africa geopolitics specialist at Barcelona think tank CIDOB said “Morocco has realised that the migration card is a very effective pressure tool”.

“Times when bilateral relations between Morocco and Spain were difficult have coincided with a rise in (migrant) arrivals in Spain and when they have improved there was a dramatic drop (in arrivals),” he added.

The arrival of migrant ships in Spain had soared in the six months before Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez took power in June 2018.   

He promptly dispatched ministers to Rabat before visiting the Moroccan capital himself in November for talks with King Mohammed VI.   

A state visit followed in February 2019 by Spain's King Felipe VI abd 11 bilateral agreements were signed covering energy to cultural cooperation.   

“There was then a radical drop in the number of migrant arrivals. This does not seem like chance. Morocco decided to change its policy” said Soler.   

The number of migrant arrivals by sea fell to 936 in February 2019 from 4,104 in the previous month,  IOM figures show.   

“When Morocco wants more money, it opens the tap of immigration and when it receives money, it closes it,” said Encinas.   

Spain in August approved €32 million ($35 million) to help Morocco control illegal migration.

In July, Madrid authorised spending €26 million to supply Morocco's interior ministry with vehicles.

EU money

A renegotiated fisheries agreement between Morocco and the European Union– which was approved by the European Parliament in February on the eve of King Felipe's state visit — has also warmed ties between Brussels and Rabat.   

On a visit to Morocco on Wednesday, Spanish Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska hailed the “police cooperation” between the two countries which had led to a “significant decrease” in migrant arrivals.

Within the EU, Madrid continues to highlight “Morocco's crucial importance as a strategic partner for migration and other issues,” he added.   

The EU gave Morocco €140 million last year to help manage migration.    

“And that seems little,” Spain's Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo said last week, before adding Europe should do more for Morocco.   

While Madrid praises its cooperation with Rabat, human rights groups accuse Morocco of forcibly preventing migrants form boarding boats to Spain.

By AFP's Laurence Boutreux 

READ MORE: Ceuta: 155 migrants force entry into Spanish enclave