Prisoners from Hirak movement in Morocco’s Rif region launch hunger strike

Protesters call for solidarity with political prisoners – image via Almounadila on Facebook

Leaders of the popular movement, the Hirak, in Morocco’s Rif region and a well-known journalist whose reports on the protest movement have earned him the enmity of the authorities began a hunger strike in jail, family members told the media in September.

Nasser Zefzafi and Mohamed Jelloul, two prominent figures from the Rif who have played a key role in leading the movement for social justice which erupted in October last year, were among those reported to be on hunger strike.

On 2 October, visitors to Mohamed Jelloul in Oukacha Prison found him too weak to stand, after more than a month on hunger strike, according to Nasser Zefzafi’s official Facebook page.

At least 35 prisoners in Ain Sbaa jail are also on hunger strike, according to Amnesty International

Journalist Hamid El Mahdaoui, editor of independent news website, also launched a hunger strike in mid-September, protesting at the decision of the appeal court to increase his prison sentence for “incitement to protest” from 3 months to 12 months. El Mahdaoui was arrested following mass demonstrations in Al Hoceima on 20 July, and accused by prosecutors of encouraging people to join the protest.

Media rights watchdog, Reporters without Borders said it was “appalled” at the sentence. “The appeal court’s decision is incomprehensible,” the organisation said.

Videos were made available to the court. It had hard evidence of his innocence. We call on the Moroccan judicial system to abandon all the proceedings against Hamid El Mahdaoui and to free him at once. He just did his job as a journalist who found himself at the centre of events.”

Hundreds of other activists remain in jail, with courts increasingly handing down harsh sentences.

International human rights organisations have condemned the Moroccan security forces and courts for torturing detainees and relying on coerced confessions to convict them. In a major report on police abuses in the trial of 32 men arrested in Al Hoceima, Human Rights Watch said the detainees had been tortured into confessing a plan to attack the police.

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