October 12

Petition Increases Pressure on Morocco to Release Hirak Activists

Rabat – Over 160 artists and intellectuals have signed an online petition demanding the Moroccan government free Hirak activists.The petition is yet another call to authorities to release the activists, whom police arrested for rallying against corruption and unemployment in northern Morocco’s Rif region in “unauthorized protests” in 2016 and 2017 in what is known as the Hirak movement.Actors, writers, and intellectuals signed the petition, criticizing the heavy prison sentences imposed on the activists and demand their immediate release. On April 5, the Court of Appeals in Casablanca upheld the prison sentences imposed on dozens of the Hirak activists in June 2018. The court sentenced the leader of the movement, Nasser Zefzafi and activists Ouassim El Boustati and Samir Ghid to 20 years in prison for “conspiracy aiming to undermine state security.” Other activists were sentenced to prison terms of 15, 10,7, 3, or 1 years, and fined for “participating in unauthorized protests.”Read Also: First Hirak Rif March After Appeal Brings Hundreds to RabatAmong the signatories are actors Mohamed Choubi and Touria Alaoui; film producers Nabil Ayouch and Driss Roukhe; and intellectuals and journalists Ahmed Assid, Sanaa El Aji, and Ahmed Bouzafour.Member of Parliament Mustapha Chennaoui also wrote to Head of Government Saad Eddine El Othmani on Wednesday demanding the release of the activists.In his letter, Chennaoui expressed concern about the health of the prisoners, in particular, activist Rabii el Ablaq, who has been on hunger strike. Chennaoui requested the release of all the activists, stating they had done nothing wrong and had only demanded their human rights of justice and equality. On Sunday, thousands of protesters took to the streets in Rabat, demanding activists be freed. Political and civil rights groups organized the march, as well as the families of the prisoners. read more