Jailed Morocco protest leader ends hunger strike

2018-09-07 09:12
Demonstrators hold pictures of Nasser Zafzafi, leader of the Rif region's protest movement, during a demonstration against corruption, repression and unemployment in the northern city of al-Hoceima. (File, AFP)

Demonstrators hold pictures of Nasser Zafzafi, leader of the Rif region's protest movement, during a demonstration against corruption, repression and unemployment in the northern city of al-Hoceima. (File, AFP)

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The jailed leader of a Moroccan protest movement on Thursday ended a hunger strike six days after launching it in protest against prison conditions, his lawyer said.

Nasser Zefzafi, who led the Hirak protest movement in Morocco's marginalised north in 2016 and 2017, was handed a 20-year jail term in June along with three others for "plotting to undermine the security of the state".

Zefzafi has been serving his sentence at the Oukacha prison in Casablanca, where he began the hunger strike on Friday last week.

The aim was to get the rights enjoyed by other prisoners, by being taken out of isolation and put in a "dignified cell where he can see and talk" with the detainees, his father Ahmed Zefzafi said at the time.

His lawyer Mohamed Aghnaj told AFP that Zefzafi had stopped his hunger strike on Thursday, without being able to say whether his demands had been met.

The 2016 protests began when fisherman Mouhcine Fikri was crushed to death in a rubbish truck, while he was apparently trying to retrieve swordfish seized by authorities as it was caught out of season.

Subsequent unrest in the Rif region, where the marginalised Berber ethnic group is the majority, focused on social issues as demonstrators demanded jobs and development.

Hundreds of people were arrested in connection with the protests but King Mohamed VI has since pardoned nearly 190 of them.

Zefzafi was arrested in May 2017.

In June, he was among 53 Hirak members sentenced by a Casablanca court - most of whom were given jail terms of one to five years.

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