Human rights organizations call on Morocco to release leader of Hirak protests

Five human rights organizations have jointly appealed for the release of Nasser Zefzafi, the imprisoned leader of the “Hirak” protest movement that stirred unrest in Morocco’s northern Rif region between 2016 and 2017.

The organizations released their statement in observance of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples on August 9th.

In an official press statement, the coalition of organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, urged for “the prompt and unconditional release of Nasser Zefzafi from his unjust imprisonment in Morocco,” where he is currently serving a 20-year jail term.

The declaration is also endorsed by the Center for Victims of Torture, Freedom House, and POMED (Project on Middle East Democracy).

The statement highlighted that the health condition of the incarcerated 43-year-old has been progressively worsening within the prison environment, with authorities obstructing his access to adequate medical care.

Zefzafi emerged as a prominent figure in the Hirak movement, which emerged in the aftermath of demonstrations in the northern port city of Al-Hoceima in October 2016.

These protests were triggered by the death of a fishmonger who was fatally crushed in a garbage truck while attempting to retrieve a swordfish that had been seized for being caught during a prohibited season.

Al-Hoceima lies within the tumultuous Rif, a predominantly Berber region that experienced several months of turmoil following the incident.

Subsequently, hundreds of Hirak activists were incarcerated, although the majority have since completed their sentences or received pardons.

Zefzafi is one of just eight Hirak members still in prison.

Amnesty International stated in December 2018 that the trial of Hirak members revealed “serious flaws,” with some individuals reportedly confessing under duress of torture.

Political groups and human rights advocates within Morocco have likewise voiced concerns over the severity of the sentences handed down to the activists, consistently advocating for the liberation of the remaining detainees associated with the Hirak movement.

Moroccan authorities have consistently asserted that the country’s judicial procedures adhere to international standards.

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