By Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (March 15th 2018)
25 years ago today a precursor of the ‘Me Too’ movement claimed a very important victory in an unlikely place. Morocco, at the time, was seen as a place where police officers, especially male ones, were entitled to do as they pleased. Nothing emphasised this culture more than the Tabetgate Scandal. Over a period of many years a top police officer, who ended his ‘service’ in Casablanca, had committed several crimes against over 500 women. The offences included rape, deflowering virgins and kidnap, among many others.
Tabert had been aided and abetted in his crimes by other officers including his superior Ahmed Ouachi, who covered up for Tabet and destroyed evidence. Police Commissioners, Abdessalam Bekkali and Mustapha ben Maghnia were also complicit in Tabet’s crimes.
Tabet could and should have been stopped many years earlier. Rather than submit to his unwanted advances a young woman in the historic city of Beni Mehall – near Jbel Tassemit in the High Atlas Mountains – threw herself out of the window. Scandalised, the area’s member in the House of Representatives fired off letters demanding action against Tabet to the Governor of the province, Ministry of the Interior, the Director of National Security, and the relevant prosecutor in 1980.
The action that followed illustrated the entitlement culture at its worst – Tabet was transferred to Rabat. The best opportunity to stop the serial rapist early had been lost. Hay Mohammadi-Ain Sebâa, the Chief of Security of that prefecture, enters the story there.
The Culture of Entitlement
This culture of police entitlement continued unabated for over a decade. Tabet, encouraged by the lack of consequences, became reckless, especially when in Casablanca, retaining incriminating evidence. This was to be his undoing. In 1989 he was appointed Casablanca’s Chief Police Commissioner. Colleagues and even civilians and, worse still, a gynaecologist were involved in national scandal that was exposed in a sensational trial of the high-ranking, self-confessed sex addict police officer whose litany of crimes were covered up by colleagues. It continued so long partly due to the law of the time requiring eyewitnesses to corroborate a woman’s word.
Casablanca’s Chief Police Commissioner El Hajj Mohamed Mustapha Tabet, 54, took advantage of that to rape and sexually assault several women. He felt so secure that he videoed his crimes and kept detailed notes. Over the years he was assisted by several police colleagues: Ouachi, Bekkali, ben Maghnia and Sebâa were the most senior officers involved. However, others ranking Inspector or below were implicated too. Azii Sebbar, Abderahim Bouddi, Abdellatif Abbad, Lahcen Jaâfari, Zouheor Fikri, Aït Si Mustapha, Slimane Jouhari and Sellam Fedali were joined in the dock by Dr Driss Lahlou and civilians Abdelkader Dou Ennaim, Abdllatif Boussari, Monhamed Rabii and Abdelahad Mrini.
Lahlou’s crimes were shocking. The doctor performed unwanted abortions on the victims and repaired hymens to conceal the rapes.
Tabet’s crimes ended after two of his victims brought a civil action against him. It resulted in a 25 day criminal trial beginning on February 18th. After 25 days Tabet was convicted of multiple counts of rape, deflowering virgins, sexual assault, abduction and other sexually-motivated crimes. At his trial 118 videos of his attacks on 518 women, some of which were committed with friends, were shown. Tabet’s detailed confession, computerised records of his victims’ identities and proof of identity of many victims that were found in the flat in Casablanca that Tabet used for his attacks also provided strong evidence against him.
He demanded sex in return for issuing documents including passports, and offered a defence that stretched credibility to absurd lengths. He claimed that he had had sex with about 1600 women over three years – more than one per day throughout his job in Casablanca, but according to him all were consensual. His denials of using violence on the women was proved false by some of the videos.
Crime and Punishment
On the Ides of March 1993 the sentences were handed down. Tabet received the death sentence. Ouachi was jailed for life for destroying evidence of Tabet’s crimes. Ten other officers were jailed for up to 20 years. Bekkali received 20 years and Ben Maghnia, ten. Lahlou was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment but with one exception the sentences were not served in full.
Bekkali died in prison in 1994 and was pardoned posthumously in 1997. Lahlou was released after serving just two years of his 15 year sentence. Ouachi, Sebâa, Boussari, Abdelkader and Rabii – the only ones remaining in prison by the turn of the century, were pardoned by the King on March 16th 2000, having served 7 years of their sentence, some still protesting their innocence.
Over a decade later the pardons process was brought into disrepute when a convicted Spanish paedophile Daniel Galván was released just two years after being convicted of raping 11 children. The pardon led to a peaceful protest that was attacked and a review of the pardons system – Galván was a particularly unworthy recipient.
Tabet was executed in Kenitra Central Prison – near Rabat – by firing squad on August 9th 1993 after his final appeal was dismissed. It was the last execution in Morocco to date and eleven years after it was last used when two people were executed over the Moutachawiq case.