Morocco : Must review activist’s jail sentence -HRW

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged Morocco to immediately review the five-year jail sentence of an activist, saying his confession may have been coerced.

A Moroccan court dealing with “terrorism affairs” in November convicted El Mortada Iamrachen, a 31-year-old popular figure of the al-Hirak al-Shaabi or “Popular Movement”, of “defending terrorism” and incitement and sentenced him to five years in jail.

El Mortada Iamrachen, a popular figure of the al-Hirak al-Shaabi or “Popular Movement”

New York-based HRW said on Tuesday the activist’s conviction was based on a “possibly coerced confession.”

“Once again, a Moroccan activist is thrown in prison after his contested confession is used to convict him,” said the group’s Middle East and North Africa director Sarah Leah Whitson.

She rejected Iamrachen’s terrorist charges and said the Moroccan government is determined to punish who deems necessary to crush.

“This may well not be a terrorism case at all, but rather a twisted effort to punish yet another leader of a protest movement that the Moroccan government seems determined to crush,” Whitson added.

A Moroccan court is scheduled to hear Iamrachen’s appeal on Wednesday.

According to HRW, Iamrachen was accused of inciting acts of terrorism in Facebook posts about news including a December 2016 attack that killed the Russian ambassador in Turkey, however, his lawyer said the posts were of a satirical nature.

It added that the activist wrote another post on Facebook telling a journalist that al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri had ordered him to import weapons into Morocco’s neglected northern Rif region but he said in court that the post was sarcastic.

The rights group said the court rejected Iamrachen’s claim that police had coerced his confession.

A fresh round of demonstrations began at the end of May, when government forces arrested al-Hirak leader Nasser Zefzafi.

Demonstrations have been held each night in the northern city of al-Hoceima and the nearby town of Imzouren with people demanding the release of Zefzafi and dozens of more activists.

Hundreds of Moroccans took to the streets in al-Hoceima to protest a police hunt for an activist leader and the arrest of at least 20 protesters during a rally over the weekend.

Hundreds of Moroccans rally against a police operation to arrest an activist leader in the city of al-Hoceima.

Protesters holding banners and chanting anti-government slogans rallied to show their support for Zefzafi.

More than 400 people have been arrested since the beginning of demonstrations, including the protest movement’s leader, and dozens sentenced to jail over the unrest.

Morocco, a country with high unemployment and poverty rates, has been ruled monarchically for 350 years.

By Africafrique and agencies

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