Moroccans demand release of prisoners

2012-12-24 14:07

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Rabat - Hundreds of members of Morocco's "February 20" protest movement gathered in Rabat on Sunday to demand the release of all political prisoners and claimed an activist was unfairly detained last week.

At least 200 protesters shouted slogans demanding "freedom and dignity", and waved banners in a suburb of the capital, observed by a large deployment of riot police.

"We are here to demand the release of Driss Bouterrada, and the release of all political prisoners," said Khadija Ryadi, who heads the Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH).

Bouterrada, a street vendor in his 30s, is in prison in Rabat's twin city of Sale after being arrested on 10 December and charged at a court hearing on Monday with drug dealing.

Ryadi said he is being tried on false charges with no access to a lawyer, adding that he has been involved with the February 20 movement since it first emerged during last year's Arab Spring protests.

"Like many other jailed political activists, his trial is unfair," she said, adding that there were currently around 50 or 60 activists in prison.

Justice ministry officials were not immediately available for comment.

The February 20 movement was formed in February last year by youths demanding democratic reform and action on a wide range of social grievances.

Earlier this month, a coalition of 18 Moroccan human rights groups launched a national campaign to free more than 70 jailed activists, notably members of the movement.

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