Wednesday 21 February 2018

Fears grow for Moroccan activist on hunger strike

Fears grow for Moroccan activist on hunger strike
(AFP (eng) 08/02/17)
Protesters face security forces during a demonstration in the town of Al-Hoceima in the troubled northern Rif region on June 8, 2017

Human rights groups have raised fears for a detained Moroccan activist who was hospitalised a month into a hunger strike over his arrest following protests in the troubled Rif region.

Detained in the northern town of Al-Hoceima in late June and held in Casablanca's Oukacha prison, 34-year-old Rabii Elablaq immediately began refusing food to demand his release.

"His health has been deteriorating ever since," said Rachid Benali, coordinator of a group defending detainees from the Rif, a predominantly Berber region gripped by months of unrest.

Elablaq's defence lawyer, Abdessadek El Bouchtaoui, said people close to his client had "repeatedly tried to persuade him to stop, but he was always determined to go all the way".

Hunger strikers typically experience dizziness, joint pain and headaches in the first two weeks, followed by uncontrollable vomiting in the third or fourth week.

They can lose up to 20 percent of their body weight within a month, and the risk of death rises dramatically after 50 days.

Dozens of people including defence lawyers and human rights activists held a sit-in on Tuesday in front of the Casablanca hospital where Elablaq was admitted the previous day.

They denounced his "arbitrary" arrest, expressed fears for his health and called for him and other detainees to be released.

On Saturday, King Mohammed VI pardoned more than a thousand detainees, including 40 people under arrest for taking part in the Rif protests, but more than 150 Rif activists, including protest leader Nasser Zefzafi, remain behind bars.

Two days later, an Al-Hoceima court sentenced 16 people to between four months and a year in jail for taking part in a banned July 20 protest that was violently broken up by security forces.

Protests erupted in the region last October after a fishmonger was crushed to death in a rubbish truck as he tried to retrieve a swordfish confiscated for being caught out of season.

Demands for justice later snowballed into a wider social movement named Al-Hirak al-Shaabi, calling for jobs, development and an end to corruption.

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