Brahim Dahane, human rights activist in Morocco

Human Rights Prize led to Diplomatic Spat

A human rights prize instituted by the Swedish Government in 2004 is awarded a Sahrawi human rights activist today. Now the daily newspaper Svenska Dagbladet reveals that it is this prize - and actions of the Swedish Embassy in Morocco in the run up to the prize ceremony - that meant a Swedish diplomat was ordered to leave Morocco in the beginning of November.

When Swedish Culture Minister Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth stepped up on stage to hand over the Per Anger-prize at the Human Rights Days at the Stockholm Fair on Monday, she stepped right into the middle of a diplomatic spat between Sweden and Morocco.

It is quite rare that Swedish diplomats are ordered to leave a country, but that is exactly what happened on the 4th of November this year. The reason? A senior advisor at the Swedish Embassy in Morocco had handed over what was said to be sensitive documents to "enemies" of Morocco's "territorial integrity".

But let's start at the beginning:

The Per Anger-prize was instituted five years ago in the memory of the Swedish diplomat who initiated the Swedish rescue-operations of Jews from Budapest in the end of the Second World War. The Prize is given to groups or individuals for their "humanitarian work and initiatives in the name of democracy".

In September it was announced that this year's prize will be awarded the Human Rights Activist Brahim Dahane who has "worked with peaceful means and risked his life in the fight for human rights" in the conflict between Morocco and the West Saharan rebel movement Polisario.

Briefly after that, Dahane went with a delegation to Algeria, where he and the other human rights activists visited the Polisario. On their return to Morocco, on the 8th of October, Dahane and six other members of the delegation were arrested.

The very next day, the Moroccan Foreign Ministry summoned the EU-ambassadors to tell them of the arrests, and documents were shown that are to prove the treason committed by the delegation, including the information that the delegation inspects Polisario troops.

It is the information about the troop inspection that, according to Svenska Dagbladet, caused the Swedish Foreign Office to ask their Embassy in Rabat to try to verify the information. Did Dahane - a future recipient of a human rights prize - really inspect troops?

At the meeting between the senior advisor at the Swedish Embassy and the leadership of Brahim Dahane's human rights group, Dahane's colleague asks to see the documents, which she later e-mails to him.

According to Svenska Dagbladet's reporter, who has seen the documents, they mainly consists of pictures and quotations reported to come from media close to Polisario.

It the e-mail - intercepted by the Moroccan authorities - that led to the advisor's expulsion and the diplomatic dispute between the countries. Morocco says the Swedish advisor's actions are a "serious crime against diplomatic practice", while the Swedish Government says it is an over reaction and that the documents were not secret in any way.

Meanwhile Brahim Dahane, himself, is in prison. It was his sister, Aicha Dahane, that came to Stockholm to receive the prize from the Culture Minister on Monday.

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