Twenty-four defendants accused of killing members of the security forces in the Western Sahara have been sentenced by a military court in Morocco. Prison terms handed down ranged from life to two years. A 25th defendant was tried in absentia and given a life sentence. The defendants had been at risk of receiving the death penalty for the crime of ‘forming criminal gangs, and violence against the security forces leading to deaths and the mutilation of corpses’. International observers monitored the trials because of the sensitivity of the disputed Western Sahara – a former Spanish colony annexed by Morocco in 1975 and claimed by separatists. Members of the security forces died in November 2010 as they tried to dismantle the Gdim Izik camp near Laayoune, the main city in Western Sahara. Authorities say 11 people killed and 70 wounded during the violence.