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Morocco: Calls for release of detained hunger-striking Hirak members

Protesters holds images of prisoners who were arrested during demonstrations against the government's promised development project, in front of ministry of justice building in Rabat, Morocco on 7 September 2017 [Jalal Morchidi/Anadolu Agency]

Families and supporters of the imprisoned Hirak members gathered this week to demand the release of the detainees.

The National Support Committee of the Hirak movement in Morocco launched an appeal at a press conference organised at a lawyer’s club in Rabat.

“We are here, one month from the commemoration of the death of Mouhcine Fikri, to pay tribute to him, and to the martyrs”, the coordinator of the committee, Alami Lahrouni, explained.

Fikri was crushed in a dumpster after having his produce confiscated by police. His death set off protests in the Rif region.

Read: HRW calls for inquiry into torture of Hirak activists in Morocco

Joining the tribute was the father of jailed Hirak leader Nasser Zefzafi, Ahmed Zefzafi, who expressed his grief and despair at his son’s detention.

“Today, our children commit suicide in Oukacha. No one reacts, where have they been?” Zefzafi questioned.

They did not even transfer him to a nearer prison so that his mother could see him… she suffers from cancer and next Monday will have a month and a half of chemotherapy … It is an injustice to us and to the detainees of the Hirak.

Read more: Moroccans burn their passports in protest

The press conference was also an opportunity for the defence to take stock of the detainees’ health and to reiterate that the latter “are on a hunger strike” and have “expressed to the prison leadership their willingness to donate their organs”.

According to the coordinator of the lawyers committee Saïd Benhammani: “The detainees no longer eat water and sugar, the majority are in the prison clinic and we do not know if they will be transported to the hospitals of Casablanca.”

The lawyer also expressed his indignation at the turning of the proceedings against the detainees of the Hirak and questioned the “seriousness of the charges against the detainees” which he said “there [was] no tangible evidence” for.

“We will strengthen our actions by organising a march and a festival dedicated to the cause of the Hirak,” Ahmed El Aouni, a member of the secretariat of the committee who moderated the press conference, told the gathering.

#Rif

Economist Najib Akesbi said the Hirak movement “was born out of economic defects in the region” which reflects the economic reality of Morocco as a whole. “The economy of Morocco, according to the World Bank, is underdeveloped by 50 years, compared to that of European countries,” he explained, according to HuffPost Maghreb.The expert explained that the death of Fikri also refocused Moroccan authorities on the issue of unemployment which is the main reason why graduates leave the country once they gain their degrees.

“350,000 young people reach the age of being active every year, but only 50,000 have been able to get a job in the formal economy over the last five years,” he said.

Since Fikri’s death, the turbulent Rif region has seen a surge of protests where demonstrators have demanded more funding from the government in the region and more employment opportunities. To date, over 150 activists have been arrested for demonstrating and one protester has died.

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