Defense attorneys have asked to postpone the trial of 36 migrants accused of "illegally entering" Morocco. The trial comes after more than 20 migrants died trying to break through Melilla's heavily fortified fence in an attempt to reach Europe.
The trial of 36 migrants accused of "illegally entering" Morocco started on Monday (July 4), 11 days after the Melilla tragedy in which at least 23 migrants lost their lives. However, the trial was immediately halted.
"We have asked for a postponement to better prepare the case, as other lawyers had joined the defence team," defense attorney Khalid Ameza told news agency AFP.
The defendants face charges of "illegal entry into Moroccan territory," violence against security forces, forming an "armed mob" and "refusal to comply" with security forces' orders.
What happened in Melilla?
The 65 defendants are among the 2,000 migrants, many from Sudan, who on June 24 attempted to break through the border fence between Morocco and the Spanish enclave of Melilla. The migrants were stopped by security forces on either side of the barrier.
The next hearing is scheduled for July 12 in the northern Moroccan city of Nador, near Melilla.
According to Ameza, one of the lawyers of the defendants, another 29 migrants, including a minor, face a court hearing in Nador on July 13 on charges of "joining a criminal gang to organize and facilitate illegal immigration."
Of the more than 500 people who managed to enter the border control area on June 24, 130 succeeded in entering Melilla, the Associated Press reported. At least 23 people died on the Moroccan side and at least 76 sustained injuries.
The Moroccan Interior Ministry has accused the migrants of using violence while trying to cross into Melilla. Some 140 Moroccan police were allegedly wounded.
The Moroccan Association of Human Rights, however, said the migrants had been "mistreated" by Moroccan security forces during the border rush.
The Spanish Commission for Refugees called the incident an "indiscriminate use of violence to manage migration and control borders." For now, it remains unclear exactly how the 23 migrants died.
The African Union as well as Spanish and Moroccan activists, among others, have demanded for the deaths to be investigated.
In the days following the incident, pro-migrant protests erupted in Morocco, Barcelona, Madrid, Ceuta, Naples and elsewhere.
With AFP and AP