Morocco recalls ambassador in row over ‘drugs dealer’ linked to opposition protests

Moroccan and Dutch flags

Morocco has recalled its ambassador from The Hague in a row over an alleged drugs dealer who has openly supported protests for an independent state in the Rif valley.

NOS reported that the man at the centre of the dispute is Said Chaâou, a former MP who has been wanted for drug smuggling since 2010. Chaâou is believed to be living in Roosendaal, on the Belgian border, but was arrested in 2015 when police broke up a drugs ring in Noord-Brabant. The Dutch justice ministry would not confirm if he is still in custody.

The Moroccan government issued a statement at the weekend accusing the Netherlands of blocking the extradition of ‘a smuggler of Moroccan origin living in the Netherlands.’ It did not confirm the man’s identity.

In its response, the Dutch justice ministry called Morocco’s decision to withdraw its ambassador ‘unnecessary and unfathomable’. ‘The Netherlands is committed to effective co-operation with Morocco, both now and in the future, provided this is based on international legal principles and protection for the rule of law,’ it said.

Chaâou is known to support independence for the Rif valley, in the north of Morocco, and is believed to have financed protests and bodyguards for the local opposition leader Nasser Zafzafi. Zafzafi was arrested last month following months of protests and growing unrest in the region.

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