Protest leader Nasser Zefzafi and journalist Hamid El Mahdaoui remain in prolonged
solitary confinement. Hunger-striking detainees are facing reprisals as their health
continues to deteriorate. They face trial in Casablanca.
Moroccan authorities are keeping the leader of the Hirak popular protest movement Nasser Zefzafi, 37, as well as journalist Hamid El Mahdaoui, 38, in prolonged solitary confinement. Nasser Zefzafi has spent over 116 days in solitary confinement, while Hamid El Mahdaoui has been in solitary confinement since his arrest in July.
Nasser Zefzafi is detained in an individual cell in an empty wing of Ain Sbaa 1 Local Prison, with half an hour of courtyard access twice a day. Hamid El Mahdaoui is also held in an individual cell with only half an hour of courtyard access daily, during which he is alone. Lack of meaningful contact with other detainees for at least 22 hours a day for more than 15 days constitutes prolonged solitary confinement, which amounts to torture or other illtreatment, according to the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Mandela Rules). The two men are among 54, including journalists, charged by the General Crown Prosecutor at the Casablanca Court of Appeals with offenses including undermining internal state security over largely peaceful social justice protests in Morocco’s northern Rif region in 2017. Only a handful have been accused of specific acts of violence, their lawyer said, while most have been accused of “inciting” protests, rebellion and unrest, including on social media.
At least thirty-five detainees at Ain Sbaa 1 Local Prison have been on hunger strike for between two and three weeks and their health is gradually deteriorating. Their demands include an end to ongoing arrests in the Rif, and the release of all those detained over the protests. Their lawyers filed a complaint regarding apparent reprisals against the hunger strikers when on 20 September prison guards reportedly filmed them on their smartphones and jeered them during an unannounced strip search after their weekly family visits. The hunger-strikers were also separated from each other, placed in closed cells and had their weekly calls to their families reduced or stopped. Their belongings were confiscated or damaged during cell searches. A number of detainees went on a dry hungerstrike for one week to protest the apparent reprisals.
Please write immediately in Arabic, French, English or your own language:
- Calling on the authorities to immediately end the detention of Nasser Zefzafi and Hamid El Mahdaoui in prolonged solitary confinement;
- Urging them to ensure that no reprisals are made against hunger strikers and ensure they have access to adequate medical care in line with medical ethics;
- Calling on them to immediately and unconditionally release all those detained for exercising freedom of expression, assembly.
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