Thousands of Moroccans and Spaniards have signed an online petition calling on Madrid authorities to re-investigate the death of a Moroccan youth a year ago.
The Spanish daily El Pais published on June 9 a video showing six security guards roughly restraining Ilyass al-Taheri, 18, in the city of Almeria, despite him not offering any kind of resistance.
The guards lead al-Taheri, whose hands were cuffed behind him, to a bed in the juvenile centre where they proceeded to work to shackle him face-down for 13 minutes, the video shows. At times, all the guards seemed to be on the bed, possibly on al-Taheri, and at others, one guard could be seen kneeling on his back.
After al-Taheri’s hands, feet and waist are bound, one of the guards lifts al-Taheri’s head up before bringing it down on the bed, where he lay motionless.
Al-Taheri passed away soon after, the autopsy of his body concluding that the restraint process might have been behind his suffocation.
According to El Pais, the security guards reacted to al-Taheri’s “resistance to their orders” – disproved by the video – which made them use force with the teenager, pressing his head, face-down, into the bed.
The newspaper pointed out that the victim’s family had appealed a judicial decision to close the file after an investigation last January concluded that his death was accidental, and that the attempt to restrain him for such an extended time was “necessary” to prevent “violence or injury to himself”.
Al-Taheri had been staying at the Tierras de Oria juvenile centre, where he was diagnosed with an antisocial personality disorder as a result of drug abuse, from the age of 10. His family had immigrated to Spain from the Moroccan city of Tetouan.
The video has sparked widespread anger in Morocco, where social media users dubbed al-Taheri the “Moroccan Floyd” after comparing it with the clip of George Floyd’s death, which triggered anti-racism protests worldwide.
Floyd, a Black American, was killed on May 25 in the city of Minneapolis after a white policeman knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes.
Why nobody is Talking about this now !!!!
You shared the story of George because he was American
But Ilyass is just a Moroccan🇲🇦 ! Soo you all are ignoring the story!!!
— ⟭⟬ 💜 Ailee 💜 ⁷ (@Aileegi) June 13, 2020
Translation: He died aged only 18 years old at the hands of Spanish police in the same way George Floyd died, the police said the death was accidental while they strangled him for 13 MINUTES
13 minutes. Il a fallu 13 minutes pour qu'Ilyasse, un jeune marocain, (Allah y rahmo) perde vie parce qu'on lui a bloqué la respiration sans aucune justification. Il a dû tellement souffrir. Nous demandons à ce que justice soit faite. #JusticeForIlyass
— La Reine du mcflurry (@MalikaaBlch) June 13, 2020
Translation: 13 minutes. It took 13 minutes for Ilyas, a young Moroccan, (God rest his soul) to lose his life because he was blocked from breathing without any justification. He must have suffered so much. We call for justice.
On Sunday, Moroccan activists, using the English and Arabic hashtag #JusticeForIlyass, called on their country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to put pressure on Spanish authorities to try those involved in al-Taheri’s killing.
Morocco’s consulate in Almería offered to help al-Taheri’s mother in the legal battle.
Murad Al-Ajouti, a lawyer and member of the Justice for Ilyass coalition, explained in a post on his Facebook page that the consulate had contacted the coalition and told him they were also in contact with al-Taheri’s mother.
The coalition, made up of lawyers and civil-society associations, had filed a complaint with the Spanish judiciary to reopen an investigation into Taheri’s death shortly after El Pais published the video.
After reviewing the video, the Arab Culture Foundation in Spain announced in a statement that it was willing to be a civil party in the case.
Al-Taheri was subjected to “inhuman treatment before his death by asphyxiation,” the statement said. “The issue is related to a premeditated murder that was fueled by hatred and racism and not by an accidental violent death, as the Borchima Town Court ruled last January.”
The Arab Culture Foundation also called on the Almeria Court to “change its standards and issue a model ruling on this incident”.