Activist beaten in Morocco

2012-11-04 09:10

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Washington - Moroccan police have beaten a prominent Western Sahara activist as repression increased coinciding with the visit of a UN ambassador to the region, a US rights watchdog charged on Saturday.

Aminatou Haidar, who supports independence for the Moroccan-occupied former Spanish colony, is "the latest victim of ... police brutality by the Moroccan government against the Sahrawi people," said Marselha Goncalves Margerin with the Robert F Kennedy Centre for Justice and Human Rights in Washington.

Haidar was shoved to the ground, beaten, and threatened with a knife by the police on her way home, the group said in a statement.

The RFK Centre "has received multiple reports in the last week that indicate dramatically increased police presence, repression, and assault against civilians in El Ayun, the capital of Moroccan-controlled Western Sahara, coinciding with (UN) Ambassador Christopher Ross's arrival in the area," the group said.

In Haidar's case, she "was stopped by police officers outside the UN mission's headquarters and placed under police surveillance. Her phone calls and emails are being monitored, and her internet connection was cut," the RFK centre.

Moroccan authorities have denied the report and called the US watchdog biased.

Morocco annexed the Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, in 1975, in a move never recognised by the international community.

The pro-independence Polisario Front, supported by neighbouring Algeria, controls a small part of the desert interior. The United Nations brokered a ceasefire in 1991 but a settlement of the conflict remains elusive.

Morocco has proposed broad autonomy under its sovereignty, a move the Polisario reject. The group insists on what it says is the right of the Sahrawi people to self-determination through a referendum.

Read more on:    un  |  morocco  |  north africa  |  uprisings
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