Ali Aarrass was tortured in a secret Moroccan prison before being jailed for terrorism for 12 years. His sister Farida tells us how much international support means to their family’s fight for justice.
People have enormous capacity for suffering – you just don’t know it until something like this happens to you.
It’s very difficult to live without knowing anything about your brother, suspecting that he has been tortured, knowing that he is in a bad way. Incommunicado detention [when detainees are denied contact with anyone outside the prison] is fatal: that’s when everything [torture] happens. We didn’t have news about my brother for months.
Ali runs the risk every day that things will get worse, that he will be ill-treated again. When he makes accusations, when he speaks out. He calls me now and then, if he hasn’t been having problems. He has tried to write us letters but they don’t get out of the prison.
He gains strength thanks to people who support him and keep him going. He wrote: “The worst that can happen to a prisoner is that people forget him.”
Support gives us strength
I’m dedicating all my time to get justice for my brother. In the beginning I thought the authorities would realize that there had been a mistake. But I soon realized that this was a very serious case. I’ve taken responsibility so it doesn’t rest on my parents’ shoulders.
It affects us all profoundly. My father is 84 and has cancer. He doesn’t want to die without seeing his son freed. My mother is 73 and has incredible strength. She says that crying doesn’t make any difference – what’s important is to fight for justice.
Little by little, I got to know more and more people who said they would help me. The more people knew about Ali’s case, the less fearful they were. Many more people – politicians, lawyers, activists – have become more interested in my brother’s story. They see that this really is a very serious case of injustice.
The people supporting us are the most wonderful part of this struggle. The spirit they give us – it’s like giving water to someone thirsty crossing the Sahara. They – you – are the water we need to live, the air we need to breathe. That’s where I get my strength.
We don’t feel alone
Ali is realistic. He knows that he has six years left in prison, but he is also an optimist. Even though he is locked up, knowing that the UN or Amnesty are working on his case gives him enormous satisfaction.
He feels well supported and knows that we won’t stop – that he is with us every day. He says that his case should be used to make sure that there are no more extraditions, no more torture. “I want mine to be the last of those injustices”, he tells me.
It makes me happy to see that you are working for my brother and against torture. Don’t stop – your work is fundamental. Keep fighting, because the lives of many unjustly detained people depend on it. We don’t feel alone. We are very thankful.
Today is the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. You can support Ali and others like him by signing our petitions.