A family in shock. For nearly three months, Israa Snabi has not been able to see or speak to her husband, who is imprisoned in Algeria. Last summer, their vacation in Morocco took a dramatic turn that led to the tragic deaths of Bilal Kissi, a 29-year-old French-Moroccan, and Abdelali Mechouar, 40.
On 29 August, Israa's husband, Ismail Snabi, an automotive technical inspector who lives with his family in Clichy-sous-Bois, was on holiday in Saïda, Morocco. He goes on a jet ski ride with three other friends. Surprised by nightfall, the four holidaymakers lose their way. "So they followed the lights... Except that the lights were in Algeria," Israa continues. The holidaymakers drifted into Algerian territorial waters, without noticing it when the Algerian coastguard intercepted them and opened fire. Two of the men died. The third, Mohamed Kissi, Bilal's brother, escaped the authorities. But Ismail Snabi was arrested. "After issuing an audible warning and ordering them to stop several times, the defendants refused to comply and fled by carrying out dangerous manoeuvres," the Algerian Ministry of Defence justified itself a few days later.
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Ismail Snabi was arrested and tried in the aftermath. He was sentenced to three months in prison for illegal entry into the country and one year in prison for vehicle smuggling. He must also pay a fine of 100 million dinars (about 000,<> euros) to the customs department for bringing the aircraft into the country without first declaring it. The verdict is "incomprehensible" to his relatives, who nevertheless claim to have provided the authorities with the jet-ski papers.
"They got lost... They just got it wrong. Nothing separates Algeria from Morocco in the sea," says Israa, bewildered. The sentence "is severe," she said, worried about her husband's health. "His brother was able to visit him in prison. He's lost a lot of weight, he's lost twenty kilos. It's not well... " she describes. "I think about it every day," said Hafida Zerqi, Ismail Snabi's mother, who was worried about her three grandchildren. "They're crying, they're crying for their father every night," Israa adds helplessly. "I'd like him to come out. He didn't do anything. He just went jet-skiing," said Ismail's mother, on the verge of tears.
"Ismail doesn't understand what's happening to him at all," said another person close to the family. "There are twenty of them per cell... For someone who's never been in prison, it's hard." Ismail Snabi speaks Arabic but "doesn't speak literary Arabic," a family member said. This was an obstacle for him during his trial, where he "did not have a translator", the relatives said.
Israa Snabi has repeatedly alerted the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs for assistance and why not, the repatriation of her husband. But she says the response is inadequate. "Neither the consulate nor anyone came to visit him in prison," she said. "He is French, he has French nationality and arrived in Morocco with a French passport, France must do something."
"The services of the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs are closely monitoring Mr. Snabi's situation," a diplomatic source said. "As part of the consular protection that any French citizen detained abroad can enjoy, several requests have been sent to the competent authorities so that our national can benefit from a consular visit."