|"right">©Elwyn Chamberlain 2006
The following day, Prospero picked Toni up at her flat and, having made their way past the world press assembled outside the Appeals Court, had taken their seats and awaited the arrival of the judges. Madame Saadi and her supporters arrived, then Radouan still in shackles with his two guards; the false Youssef, Moulay, with his minders and the Public Prosecutor and his staff. Finally the advisory judges and the Cadimade their entrance and the clerk called the court to order.
The Cadi shuffled the papers in front of him, scraped his throat and began speaking in a low deliberate voice.
‘I would like to summarize the evidence heard in this court up till now and then go on to our judgements,’ he said adjusting his glasses.
Toni wanted to say something to Radouan, about Lahcen, but held her tongue.
‘The most important piece of evidence we have is a signed confession by one Zouheir Antaki, given to the Marrakech Police on 20 April 1998. In it he has stated that on the morning of the 23 March 1998, at about five am, he entered the private apartments of the Baroness Von Schleebruck in her Ksar, ‘Dar Chems’, off the Route d’Ouarzazate with tea which the Baroness was accustomed to having at that hour. And that, after putting the tea tray down on a table near her bed, as he was helping her to sit up and take her tea, he smothered her with a pillow until she stopped breathing and died. Wiping away any possible finger prints with the towel he always carried, he then made his way downstairs, washed up the tea things and informed the chief servant A’hmed that he had gone up to the Baroness’ bedroom at the usual time and when he opened the curtains of her bed he found her dead. A’hmed then called Madame Saadi as he had been instructed to do and she soon arrived with the Marrakech police. When the police questioned him a few days later, Zouheir admitted he had lied to Ahmed about finding the Baroness dead and it was he who murdered her. Moreover, that he had not acted on his own behalf but at the bidding of a certain individual from Fez going by the name of Youssef ibn el Ali.’
‘This is the end of his statement which is corroborated by a recording made by the police from a transmitter attached to the confessed murderer Zouheir, as part of an agreement toward a reduction of his sentence. In this recording it becomes clear that the servant A’hmed placed Zouheir as a server in the Baroness’ household sometime in November 1997 at the request of the aforementioned Youssef ibn Ali. Although Fatima Saadi aided Youssef ibn el Ali in many ways, there is no evidence to suggest that she acted on her own in this matter, or was in any way the instigator of this murder.’
The false Youssef tried to object but was silenced.
‘We therefore accept the confession of Zouheir Antaki, that he killed the Baroness by suffocation, and reserve judgement on whether he was coerced into this act either by threat or offer of money, pending further questioning of the person present in this chamber who calls himself Youssef ibn Ali el Idrisi who shall be held in custody by the Marrakech police until the resolution of this matter.’
‘On the matter of the parentage of the person who calls himself Youssef ibn Ali el Idrisi, we have now received reports from our Laboratory in Rabat and from the Currie Institute in Paris that the DNA in the tissue sample taken from him does not, I repeat, DOES NOT match that of his purported mother, the Baroness Von Schleebruck. In view of this he must be Moulay, son of Latifa, a maid who worked in the household of the Patron Ali el Idrisi of Fez. Moreover, the person we have seen here registered as Moulay in the Casablanca psychiatric facility, who's DNA does match the DNA of the Baroness; he must be the true Youssef.’
‘Although the audio tape we have heard here made by Prospero Serfati purported to be the recollections of an old servant, one Gamal, employed for many years by the Idrisi family, it cannot be taken as certain evidence. The fact that these DNA studies back the allegations that Moulay is really Youssef and Youssef, Moulay strongly suggests to us that the person calling himself Youssef did, after the death of the Patron Ali el Idrisi, conspire to have documents pertaining to his identity falsified and his name inserted for Youssef’s so that he could come forward as the heir to the Baroness’ fortune.’
‘Furthermore, as soon as our technicians learned that when Ali el Idrisi died he was not buried, but interred in a crypt in the family mausoleum in the Idrisi Palace in Fez; and that it would be possible to take samples of bone marrow from his remains and compare his DNA with those of both Moulay and Youssef; we ordered this to be done. Now we have just received the results of these tests which confirm that both men are the sons of the Cherif Ali el Idrisi.’
A collective groan rippled through the chamber.
‘On the tape Monsieur Prospero Serfati played for us, the old servant Gamal repeated the story that Moulay’s father was a local carpenter who ran away, However he also indicated it was his belief the Patron might have fathered both boys...which, in fact, is the case.’
‘Yet to be resolved in this matter is the problem of a Trust which must be set up to care for the indigent son Youssef. As he is unable to manage his own affairs this court will appoint three Trustees, and supervise the creation of a Trust, to do so. We understand Mme Antonia al Uld Billah has taken great interest in the plight of the real Youssef and has volunteered to move him to Marrakech and provide for him here. We have no objections to this course of action and agree with her that in a different setting he may improve.’
The Cadi then addressed himself to Madame Saadi.
‘Concerning your role in this affair, Fatima Saadi... you must know, as you are an Avocat in your own right, that you could easily be charged with conspiracy to defraud and to commit murder.’
The Cadi drummed on his desk.
‘For a Notaire to show a Testament of a client or even discuss it with a third party, even with the heirs or beneficiaries of a Testament, is a serious offence and strictly forbidden. According to our laws and customs you should be punished severely and suspended from any professional work.’
‘As to the excuse you gave that your client, the Baroness, had a terminal disease and desired assistance in ending her life... as a good Muslim you must know that suicide is forbidden.’
‘Considering, however, that this is the first lapse of judgement in your long and admirable career. And considering that you have voluntarily admitted association with the man who called himself Youssef ibn Ali el Idrisi, whom we now know to be Moulay ibn Ali el Idrisi, and that in fact you openly confessed your misdeeds before this court, we will not bring charges against you.’
‘We do, however require that you shall be fined the sum of one million dirhams for these indiscretions, and that you set aside one working day each week for the next five years to make your services available to the poor free of charge.’
In a strident emotion filled voice Madame Saadi tried to speak, tried to start negotiating over the amount of her fine, but was told to shut up. Her supporters angrily defended her and one of the auxiliary Judges threatened to have them all thrown in jail.
‘I’m sure we’ll be paying that fine!’ Toni muttered.
‘That would be," helping them out," ’ Pero replied, ‘its part of the deal.’
The Cadi scraped his throat, signaling that he wished to continue and the chamber quieted down. ‘Concerning the involvement of the accused, Radouan-Jannat ibn Ibrahim ibn Abbas ibn Hassan al Uld Billah in the murder of the Baroness Von Schleebruck. It is obvious to us that the wrong man was arrested. We find him not guilty and he is free to resume his normal life.’
‘Allah Akbar! Allah Akbar!’ Toni cried under her breath.
‘His arrest and imprisonment by the Marrakech authorities was premature and must be cited as improper. As he was a frequent visitor at the Baroness’ Ksar, evidence of his fingerprints there cannot be considered to incriminate him. We therefore declare that, the provisions of the Baroness’s Testament will be carried out in full, and that this court recognizes Radouan- Jannat ibn Ibrahim al Ayadi to be the sole legitimate heir to all her properties and assets both here and abroad.’
‘Allah Akbar!’ Radouan breathed deeply his eyes closed.’ ‘There is no Victor but God, the Almighty the Compassionate.’
‘As for you who came to Marrakech claiming you were Youssef ibn Ali el Idrisi,’ the Cadi addressed the false Youssef, ‘now that you have been found not to be related to the Baroness in any way, we order that you be taken into custody until the Public Prosecutor finishes investigating your involvement in this affair and has been able to question you thoroughly.
Radouan turned to Pero: ‘They’ll strike a deal with him you’ll see,’ he mumbled, ‘they want to know how much he can pay.’
The Cadi scraped his throat again. ‘The case of Radouan is concluded. The case of Moulay ibn Ali el Idrisi is continued indefinitely pending further findings of the public prosecutor. Court Adjourned.’
©Elwyn Chamberlain 2006