On the evening of October 13, I was asked to get in a car driven by “Ammar Ould M'hamed” from the tribe of “Ait Lahcen” accompanied by “Al Mahdi Ould Biha” from the tribe of “Oulad Abdelwahid”. I mentioned their tribes because of what will happen later that evening.
The car took us off. After a few moments I turned back and did not see the rest of the cars as usual. So I warned Commander Ammar about it, he replied that they would join us.
We first headed north, then west on a strange journey whose destination I did not understand. At first I thought they were deliberately prolonging the distance, so that we could enter the military headquarters at night. It had been 6 days since I met the investigating judge expected to return soon.
As darkness fell, they headed directly towards the district headquarters, but I was surprised that they passed through the military sector and did not stop.
Ammar is a reasonable and rational man and for sure he knew I noticed something unusual, so he hastened to address me: We will bid you farewell and we will hand you over to your friends. So I said to him: Do not be fooled, this is a sensitive circumstance and everything is possible, why wait until dark if the situation was normal. I know you are only following orders but I advise you to protect your back and ask that the person you will hand me over to, to give you a signed document that he took me over from you in the presence of witnesses. You are not from our tribe and you might get into a big problem if any harm befalls me. Your colleagues will testify that you were the last two people they saw me with.
While we were talking, the light of a flashlight shone in front of us. As soon as we got there, it turned out to be a soldier in full military uniform. Without asking him, he told us the district headquarters remained behind us if that was our destination. Apparently, they did not know him and he did not know them, everyone wanted to know the reason for the coming of the other without revealing his identity.
I asked for permission to get off to perform the sunset prayer, I was too late for it. I left them in their discussion.
As soon as I finished praying, the flashlight guy approached me and grabbed my forearm, and while I was inquiring, another strange soldier intervened and grabbed my other hand and they dragged me towards the dark. I called Ammar to ask him what was going on but he did not reply. The two soldiers kept dragging me until we got off a slope and found several cars in it, one of them bearing the front gendarmerie sign, and the others I could not see clearly in the dark.
When we approached the first car, a third soldier entered and put a blindfold on my eyes and cuffs on my hands, then I felt them push me into a covered car.
Minutes later, it felt like the car was starting to move. The journey lasted for hours, interrupted by stops during which I heard the car doors being opened and closed with no conversation taking place inside the car.
They finally stopped late at night and took me out. Then they dragged me a few meters away, before removing my blindfold and handcuffs. There was one unaccompanied car carrying the Front gendarmerie sign. It had 5 or 6 masked soldiers in it, only their eyes were visible and communicating only via whispers or gestures.
One of them told me after he gave me my blanket that we would sleep there. It was a very cold night and the place was like a yard with nowhere to find shelter from the cold.
I asked them if they had anything to eat, since I have been traveling since 5pm, they said no.
For the first time in nearly two weeks, I am feeling tension mixed with fear. I don’t know who these masked men were or what their destination was ... It seemed to me at the beginning that they were taking me to Algeria and did not want anyone to know. However, the features of the area did not suggest we were in the north territories, more like the soil of southern territories.. I had an unsettling night and could not sleep despite the fatigue from the long journey.
In the first hour of dawn, those who were asleep woke up and lit a light fire and started making tea. Not far from us I heard the barking of a dog and the sounds of cattle .. Then the features of the area began to unfold with the break of the morning. So, we were in the "Akenz" area, in the Mauritanian territory, north of "Lahfira".
Preparing tea finished quickly and one of them approached me and said that we will resume the journey. I asked him who was the leader of the group and he referred to the person sitting behind the wheel of the car, his name was “Lamghefri”.
I approached "Lamghefri" and I knew him well in the gendarmerie. I asked him if it was his to handcuff and blindfold me. He told me that I knew his rank, the limits of his authority, and that it was not his idea but now that he is leading the group, it should not happen again.
I got into the car with the masked group and less than an hour later, we entered the valley of "Jhifa''. There were several military vehicles and many soldiers. In the middle of the valley between the trees, two small tents were erected, about 100 meters apart.
They stopped at the northern tent and asked me to come down, they said that this tent would become my cell.
After about half an hour, “Al-Mahdi Ould Biha” entered the tent. He is one of the two military commanders who accompanied me before the masked took me over in the dark.
He said that when he saw what happened at the time of the handover, he was not reassured. Since I was under his responsibility, he insisted that he accompany me to the destination to which I would be taken, and that he would only deliver me in broad daylight after he got acquainted with the destination and the people who would receive me..
He told me that I have become Under the responsibility of the Front’s Gendarmerie from “Rabouni”, their leader was called “Alboukhari Kino”. Before he bid me farewell, he gave me a Qur’an, and it was the most valuable gift I had ever received. I did not feel lonely after I found that holy book.
My guards were now the gendarmes instead of military soldiers, and the cell changed from a tree to a small tent, but the isolation continued. No greetings, no conversations.
In the new prison-valley, only two guards were allowed to communicate with me to bring the meals and water. I later learned that one of them was the brother of the journalist Salik Rahal, with whom I had the televised interview on the regional Laayoune channel, which the Front used to collect evidence of my alleged conviction, I laughed at the irony of fate …
The story continues...
Mustapha Salma Ould Sidi Mouloud is a former police chief of the Polisario Front, and political dissident.