Jailed Morocco Islamists on hunger strike

2012-05-16 11:57


  • Morocco
    From the strait of Gibraltar to the snowy peaks of the Atlas Mountains and the windswept Sahara,... Now R300.00
    buy now

Rabat - Islamists who say they are being unfairly held in Moroccan prisons are staging hunger strikes to put more pressure on the new government to release them, according to campaigners who are in contact with the prisoners.

Letters sent from jail by the inmates and shown to Reuters by their supporters, describe a series of protests by prisoners, followed by punishments by their gaolers that include force feeding and torture.

Officials in the north African kingdom deny torturing or mistreating the prisoners, saying that this was a lie by inmates to try to attract attention to their cases.

But the accounts from inside jails show that, even after 12 years of King Mohammed VI's reformist rule and a fresh burst of reforms after last year's "Arab Spring" that were lauded by Western governments, Morocco has yet to follow through fully on promises to clean up its justice system.

A hand-written letter sent by a group of Islamist inmates in Toulal 2 prison, near Meknes in northern Morocco, described the state of health of the hunger strikers. Reuters has seen a copy of the letter.

"Noureddine Jarrar, Abderrahim Barazani, Abdessamad Battar ... are vomiting blood," said the letter, which was dated 12 May 2012.

"Mohamed Chetaibi ... fainted. Ismael Belamara fainted too because he is diabetic. Mustapha Sefiani tried several times to commit suicide by hanging himself, and the prison administration punished him by tying his hands and feet and leaving him next to a pile of rubbish."

A source in the Moroccan prisons administration, who did not want to be identified, denied that inmates were on hunger strike or that there was any abuse of prisoners.

"The Islamist prisoners are trying to raise attention by lying," said the source.

Militant violence

"Our prisons are in compliance with international standards [and] have all necessary conditions, food, medicine," he said. "There is no torture... the prisons are visited by the regional committee [of non-governmental organisation representatives], prosecutors, human rights activists."

"I ask anyone who is complaining about torture to go to the judicial authorities," he said. "If we find anyone involved in torture, he will be expelled [from the prison service]."

The issue is not a new one. After a series of coordinated suicide bombings in Morocco's commercial capital, Casablanca, in 2003, security forces rounded up hundreds of people they suspected of belonging to militant Islamist groups.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said many of them were convicted in unfair trials, often after secret detention and torture.

The king himself, in a 2005 interview with the Spanish-language newspaper El Pais, admitted abuses had taken place in the crackdown that followed the Casablanca bombings.

The "Arab Spring" revolts in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya last year gave the Islamist prisoners hope they could be freed.

Under pressure from huge protests, the authorities enacted reforms. A moderate Islamist who used to be in opposition took over as prime minister with a promise to end corruption and improve human rights.

Yet since then, only three senior Islamists have been released, and the justice minister told Reuters in an interview that freeing more would be difficult.

Groups lobbying for the jailed Islamists say the authorities agreed last year to improve conditions for Islamist detainees and review their cases, but have now backed out of this undertaking. Officials deny any such deal exists.


Anas Haloui of the Joint Committee for Defending Islamist Prisoners, an NGO, said that the hunger strikes started on 09 April in the Toulal 2 prison and then spread to jails in Sale and Kenitra, both near the capital, Rabat.

Haloui said prisoners were holding a rolling hunger strike: when one striker could no longer continue, another would start refusing food. "The situation for those who are on [hunger] strike is very miserable," said Haloui.

A second rights group working with Islamist prisoners confirmed some inmates were on hunger strike.

Another letter from an Islamist inmate describes his treatment by gaolers after he went on hunger strike in Toulal 2 jail.

"They beat me on my feet using all their force and violence, after that they poured cold water on my body and they all urinated on me," said the undated letter, signed by a prisoner called Mohamed Chadeli.

"I was screaming but they beat me again and again... They brought milk and tried to feed it to me by force. They poured it on my face and nose and mouth."

The writer ends the letter by alluding sarcastically to the limits of Morocco's reforms. He signs off with the words: "The Guantanamo of the new Morocco."

Read more on:    morocco  |  north africa

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24


Cope: Zuma must listen to religious leaders

Cope has called on President Jacob Zuma to listen to religious leaders calling for him to come clean on the Nkandla saga.


Latest elections multimedia

Why Jack Parow wants you to vote on 7 May
The ad the SABC doesn't want to air
Elections 2014 in one cartoon
This year's election posters
  • Monday Sir Lowry's Pass - 13:45 PM
    Road name: N2 Westbound
    HEAVY TRAFFIC over Sir Lowrys Pass - expect delays
  • Monday Somerset West - 13:45 PM
    Road name: N2 Westbound
    EXPECT DELAYS due to high volumes
More traffic reports...

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as kalahari.com’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

BlackBerry Bold Touch 9900

The Blackberry Bold Touch 9900 is as the name says...

From R3565.00

I'm shopping for:


There may be a break through, either through quiet contemplative time to connect to your deep side or forced on you by...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.