Monday, June 11, 2007


The Kingdom of Morocco appears to be in a repressive mood lately cracking down internally and in the Western Sahara as well. Oh yeah, Morocco also appears to be one of those swell places where the CIA and company like to stick "disappeared" they want to question a little more than it were.

The first article/appeal is from Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (HRinfo). The second is from Reuters Alert.

Seven activists arrested, two allegedly tortured, all sentenced to prison for criticising royalty during Labour Day event

HRinfo calls upon the Moroccan authorities to release the civil society activists who were arrested after 1 May 2007 demonstrations and charged with "insulting sacred doctrines." HRinfo also call for an end to the government's crackdown on freedom of opinion and expression.

The crackdown began on 1 May. Security forces broke into the Moroccan workers' union headquarters in Agadir, immediately following the Labor Day walk. Union and other activists were beaten and abducted, including Abd el Rehim Qarad, a member of the executive office of the National Syndicate for Farmers, and Mahdy el Barboushy, a member of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights.

On the same day, many arrests and investigations were conducted in Al-Qasr Al-Kabeer City. El Tuhamy El Khayat, chair of the National Association for Unemployed Graduates, was arrested and interrogated, then was released only to be re-arrested on 3 May, together with four other activists: Rabie el Risouny, Yousef el Rakab, Osama Bin Masoud and Ahmed el Kaatib.

All the named activists were charged with "insulting sacred doctrines."

On 10 May, the Court of First Instance in Agadir issued a verdict sentencing Abd el Rehim Qarad and Mahdy el Barboushy to two years in prison and charging them a fine of 10,000 dirhams (approx. US$1,200), despite their claim that confessions were extracted from them under torture.

On 22 May, the Court of First Instance in Al-Qasr Al-Kabeer City issued a verdict charging the four detainees in that city with "insulting sacred doctrines." They were sentenced to three years in prison and a fine of 10,000 dirhams.

"We couldn't understand the relationship between 'sacred doctrines' and Labor Day, but when we gathered more information, we found out that the charge is 'insulting royal doctrines'. The phrasing of the published news was unfair and deceitful, moreover, as arresting activists for criticizing royalty is a violation of their freedom of expression, and when criticizing royalty becomes 'an insult to sacred doctrines', the government's crime becomes even more dangerous," said Gamal Eid, executive director of HRinfo.

HRinfo declares its complete solidarity with the Moroccan Association for Human Rights and the detained civil society activists, and calls for their release. It also expresses its fears that this is the beginning of a regression away from growing democratic openness in Morocco. These incidents remind us of the harsh years experienced by Moroccan activists, and highlight the need for democratic struggle to avoid a return to those days.


Sahara talks at risk from Morocco action-Polisario

Morocco is cracking down harder than usual on independence activists in Western Sahara raising doubts about peace talks due to start next week, the Polisario independence movement said on Monday.

"Morocco's behaviour may jeopardise the negotiations, as it could also jeopardise peace and stability in the region," Polisario's foreign affairs spokesman Mohamed Salem Ould Salek told a news conference in the Algerian capital.

His comments came as a Polisario-backed Moroccan human rights organisation, called CODESA, accused Morocco of recently arresting and kidnapping a large number of civilians including children in Western Sahara's main city of Laayoune.

There was no immediate comment from Moroccan authorities.

Morocco and Polisario are due to hold U.N.-sponsored talks on June 18-19 to try to negotiate an end to Africa's oldest territorial dispute by setting the status of the former Spanish colony, annexed by Morocco after Madrid pulled out in 1975.

"The talks are going to be a test to see if Morocco is serious about peace in the region," Ould Salek said.

In May Polisario's leader Mohamed Abdelaziz said a failure to break the deadlock could reignite the movement's armed struggle, triggered initially by Morocco's move more than 30 years ago.

A 1991 U.N. ceasefire accord promised a referendum on the territory's fate, but it never happened and Rabat now rules it out, saying autonomy is the most it will offer.

Morocco wants talks about self-rule for the territory under Moroccan sovereignty, but Algeria-backed Polisario has demanded a referendum that would include the option of full independence.


Rights campaigners in Morocco have said that Moroccan police have beaten and imprisoned dozens of independence activists demonstrating on university campuses in recent weeks.

The government has denied that police used excessive force to break up the demonstrations, saying they had intervened each time to separate rival gangs of students.

Ould Salek added that he saw "no positive signals" that Morocco was committed to peace and to talking in good faith.

Ould Salek said Algerian-backed Polisario was approaching the talks in a positive spirit. The movement wants to negotiate with Morocco on ways to hold a referendum that would offer a choice between independence, integration into Morocco and self-governance.

"If we get our independence, we will be more than happy to establish friendly and economic relations with Morocco," Ould Salek said, adding that "doors will then be open for stability and cooperation in the region."

The Western Sahara dispute is the main cause of tension between Morocco and Algeria, whose land borders, closed in 1994 amid security tensions, remain shut.

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