Abuse and political detention in Morocco : The regime “takes revenge”

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Signalfire transmits the following note from comrades active in Morocco’s revolutionary democratic movement-Editor

(From Casablanca) Six activists arrested during a demonstration violently suppressed in July appeared for the seventh time on Monday, in the court of Ain Sbaa in Casablanca. Activists of the anti-authoritarian February 20th movement, they are accused of having participated in a unauthorized demonstration, of outrage to agents of the state and grievous bodily harm against the police. For their lawyer Mohamed Messaoudi, they are victims of a purely political trial.

They were arrested and judged to have demonstrated with the February 20th Movement by the police who “accuse and put on trial” at the same time. The blogger Larbi, who never misses a court appearance, notes the absurdity of the charges against the prisoners : “In the courtroom, there are 50 persons who participated in demonstration, including me. The charges apply to me as well. Why I I am not arrested ?” Samir Bradley, Tariq Rochdi, Nour Essalam Kartachi, Abderrahman Assal, Youssef Oubella and Laila Nassimi, are activists of the Casablanca coordination of the February 20th movement . They were detained on July 22nd during the Sidi Bernoussi demonstration the purpose of which was to call for the liberation of the political prisoners and protest high prices.

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A T-shirt with traces of blood

Those who witnessed the dispersion of the demonstration by the police force are unanimous : The police force intervened without warning – Moroccan law demands there be three warnings before any dispersion of a demonstration. According to them, the demonstrators were pounced on, sometimes one facing several policemen while others were hunted by bikers. That evening, about fifteen demonstrators – as well as a journalist – were detained.

To justify suppression and arrests, authorities allege that the frequent demonstrations of the movement occur without permission and disrupt public order. The opponents of the movement also note the slogans of the Casablanca demonstrations which were more radical then previous protests. During a court hearing, the defendants said to the judge that they had suffered torture during their time in custody. One of them used the visit of minister of Justice Mustapha Ramid who had before declared to a Lebanese television channel that there were no case of political detention,to display a T-shirt with traces of blood.

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The Office of the Public Prosecutor denies torture

Two of them said they were raped with a broomstick and by the insertion of a finger in the anus. The Office of the Public Prosecutor answered that a doctor had shown that they had suffered “no physical violence.” On Friday, the room was packed. The activists had come many to support the defendants, smiling, who entered the court room  making the victory. The witnesses used a trip as an excuse, did not appear. For Larbi, the trials outcome is fixed beforehand: “What’s the point of pleas? It is frustrating for the lawyers. Here whoever you are, you won’t win a political trial.”

One year of prison for a song

There are several dozens across the country who have been convicted or are awaiting judgment in similar trials. In May, the very high profile Mouad Belghouate, alias L7a9ed, rapper and movement activist, was condemned for one year of prison for a song and due to a complaint filed by the police. The poet Younes Belkhdim was arrested on March 30th while participating in a sit-in of support for L7a9d, and condemned to two years of detention for destruction of public property.

According to the Moroccan Association of human rights (AMDH), there are about 70 activists of the movement currently in prison, to Casablanca, Kénitra, Séfrou, Tangier, Nador, Fès, Al Hoceima. But no official definite figure is available, the activists being indicted with charges ranging from outrage to state agents to calling for the boycott of elections, or other minor offenses. In August, an activist from Tangier, Said Ziani, was sentenced to three months of prison for selling cigarettes. For an activist of the Febuary 20th Movement the problem is not restricted to the current prisoners : “The question which it is necessary to ask, is not only how many are imprisoned today, but how many people were detained for even five minutes, abused and put in prison since February 20th, 2011 [day of the first demonstration and the birth of movement, editor's notes] !”

According to Youssef Raissouni, from AMDH, “systematic “ repression, “in various forms”, has accompanied the movement since its beginning. He raises a peremptory official report today :” the situation has deteriorated. There is more political detention than ever before.

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Ebbing of protest

Repression has increased while the anti-authoritarian movement has ebbed a little since the adoption of a new Constitution, one year ago, and the November legislative elections which allowed to the Islamist party of the PJD to run the government for the first time. Raissouni explains : “the Makhzen [the state apparatus, editor's notes] asserts itself, there is vengeance by the regime against social movements. it went through one year of discomfort, it is simple ! It wants to terrorize the anti-authoritarians so that people don’t step out, so that future activists are intimidated. Before going to demonstrate, you must take into account the chances of repression and detention.”

For the activist Mohamed Amine Hessaboui, power tries to eliminate the only real forces of opposition : “It is the only solution which power has. It is the only choice which remains to it. It played all its cards : the new Constitution and elections,to tranquilize the voices which oppose the system.” Ezzedine Eroussi, an activist of extreme left who was detained for five months after a demonstration in Taza in December, attended the trial, which he also describes as political .

This 23-year-old student , coming from the Baseist sphere of influence, member of the national Union of the students of Morocco (Unem), and activist of the February 20th movement , carried out a hunger strike of 135 days to protest against torture which he suffered in prison and to call for the liberation of all political prisoners : “I was victim of a political trial because I come from a radical political sphere of influence, a democratic baseist voice. We have radical positions. Political repression has always been going on. Let’s return to our history. Every voice which asks for change is suppressed. The regime must safeguard its interests.” He still carries the traces of his detention. His ankles are scared by the handcuffs which were left on him for weeks while he was force fed during the hunger strike.

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