Society 04/07/2021

Moroccan journalist denounces Mossos' attempt to recruit him as an informer

Ali Lmrabet is outraged with the treatment of the Catalan police, who have insisted despite his refusal

4 min
Moroccan journalist Ali Lmrabet established in Barcelona

BarcelonaLast September, the prestigious Moroccan journalist Ali Lmrabet received a call from a stranger: someone who identified himself as an agent of the Mossos d'Esquadra's intelligence services asked to meet him. The Catalan police intelligence team's interest in Lmrabet is logical: a former diplomat, ex-professor, writer and journalist known and repeatedly awarded for his defence of press freedom in Morocco, he is a great connoisseur of the country and its regime. But Lmrabet is outraged by the treatment he has received from the Catalan police and above all by the fact that, having made it clear that he is a journalist and that he does not want to talk to the intelligence services of any country, he has continued to receive calls from the same agent up to a dozen times, the last one just a few weeks ago. In the meantime, the journalist continues to do his job: a few weeks ago, one of the main Moroccan weekly newspapers published his photograph with a target on it, threatening him for having published that the author of the complaint that brought Polisario Front leader Brahim Ghali to court last month had been an agent of the DGET, the Moroccan intelligence services.

"I am outraged that the police want a former assistant professor at the Sorbonne, former diplomat, contributor to several international media and winner of some 20 international journalism prizes to become a common informer", Lmrabet laments to ARA.

He explains that the calls from the Mossos started a few weeks after the journalist had a problem with a neighbour of his, whom he denounced for a racist aggression, in a case that is in court. In fact, when the journalist received the first call from the information service he thought that the Mossos were contacting him about this: "I had complained about the treatment received by a sergeant of the Mossos and I thought they were calling about that, but immediately the voice on the other end told me that the call came from the information services, that they had seen my complaint but they were calling me about something else", he recalls.

"He told me that he had attended a conference of mine in January, but I have given hundreds of conferences, as well as appearances on television and radio, and no one from the police had ever called me. I insisted that he tell me why he wanted to talk to me and, at one point in the conversation, perhaps to impress me, he told me my wife's name. He told me he wanted to meet me". The journalist refused, insisting that he did not talk to espionage services and that if what they wanted was general information they could read his articles or invite him to give a class at the Mossos school: "If they could not pay me, I would still do it out of respect for this country, but always in public, not in an office".

A spokesman for Mossos confirms to ARA that the meeting took place and that later there were more telephone contacts with Lmrabet but that in no case did they intend to sign him as a confidant, but that the meeting took place in the framework of contacts with experts to have more precise information about the situation in the Rif, where in 2017 there was a revolt to demand improvements in living conditions that the following year was harshly repressed. According to their version, they wanted to know details before the danger that the conflict would have some impact in Catalonia. They describe the meeting as "productive", but say that the relationship remained there, and that the subsequent calls were only to follow up on their neighbourhood conflict. They also stress that the information services of the corps never go to journalists to act as informers.

This is not the first time the secret services have tried to contact Lmrabet. According to the journalist, in 2007, two agents of the National Intelligence Centre (CNI) visited him in a hotel in Zaragoza where he was preparing a conference and he also declined the proposal.

Lmrabet received more calls, always from the same person, who he decided to record and finally agreed to the meeting. "I wanted to know if they were really Mossos and when they called me back I proposed to meet them in a cafeteria in Plaça de Catalunya. Once there, I invited them home". Two agents came and identified themselves with their badges. "I was surprised that one of them greeted me with the expression salam alaikum, which is not used very often in the French-speaking world where I live", he recalls. The agents evoked the crossed denunciations of aggression with the neighbour, for which Lmrabet had filed a complaint for hate crime and also a complaint against a sergeant of Mossos who came to his house the day of the facts. During the conversation, the agents asked him questions about the Rifian community in Catalonia and the journalist was surprised that the agents apparently did not understand "the gap between the first wave of immigration coming from the Rif and the following ones".

The conversation was cordial, but Lmrabet got the impression that "they were not interested in my lectures". The journalist, who in 2003 was awarded the Solidarity Prize of the Catalan Institute of Human Rights, regrets that "someone who has no history of violence in any of the countries he has lived in, neither in the Maghreb, nor in Europe nor in Latin America, and who in Morocco was closely watched and persecuted, becomes, when he is over 60 years old, a neighbourhood thug for the Mossos".