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Morocco: Rights group demands release of journalist arrested covering Rif protests

Protesters, supporting Rif Movement leader Nasser Zefzafi stage a demonstration demanding from government to take action for development of the region, in Imzouren own of Hoceima, Morocco on June 11, 2017 [Jalal Morchidi / Anadolu Agency]
Protesters, supporting Rif Movement leader Nasser Zefzafi stage a demonstration demanding from government to take action for development of the region, in Hoceima, Morocco on 11 June 2017 [Jalal Morchidi / Anadolu Agency]

The National Syndicate of the Moroccan Press has demanded the release of journalist Hamid Al-Mahdawi who was arrested following protests in the province of Al-Hoceima in the north of the Kingdom.

In a statement released yesterday, the Syndicate called for an end to what it called “a series of judicial actions against Al-Mahdawi … and to retry him on the basis of the Press and Publication Law.”

On Tuesday, the Court of Appeals in Al-Hoceima increased Al-Mahdawi’s sentence from three months in prison to one year. Following the decision, the journalist went on hunger strike.

The Syndicate described the sentence against Al-Mahdawi who was arrested in July, as “harsh” and “a disturbing decline in the freedom of press and publication in the country”.

Read: Rif protester dies

It said it was surprised by the court’s ruling and expressed its “deep concern over the ruling”.

In June, Moroccan journalists demanded the immediate release of five journalists and two bloggers arrested following the Hirak Rif in the province of Al-Hoceima.

#Rif

Protests erupted in October in the Rif region and around Al-Hoceima following the death of fishmonger Mouhcine Fikri who was crushed in a garbage truck after his produce was confiscated by authorities.

Hundreds have been arrested whilst protesting the unemployment and underdevelopment of the Al-Hoceima region which residents have accused the Kingdom of abandoning and redirecting development funds to south of the country. One protester died in clashes on 20 July becoming the first since the protests began.

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