Morocco: Activists behind Bars

Alaa Kamal
     The status of the Arab countries is a clear evidence of  the frenzy that swept the Arab regimes to persecute  the lawyers and activists of human rights defenders , opponents of torture  and supporters of freedom of opinion and expression .The  Arab prisons are wide open to  many of the militants who are  convicted by multi-jurisdictions. Yet  the first charge is  exposing  tyrannical regimes haunting their countries.

    Chakib Khayari journalist and human rights activist, head of the Moroccan organization “AlReef” for Human Rights, member of the Support Committee of Prince Muhammad ibn Abd el-Krim Al Khatabi in Agadir and a member of the Federal Amazigh Bureau in World Congress, is one of the leading anti-drug trafficking in Morocco.
Before his arrest Khayari made several international media statements in Morocco as well as in Europe, questioning the seriousness of the Moroccan authorities in combating the smuggling of  drugs from Morocco to Europe. Khayari is also an Amazigh rights activist. He criticized the ill-treatment of Moroccan authorities  to African migrants trying to illegally  enter Europe , and ill-treatment of Moroccan citizens by Moroccan and Spanish security in of Melilla under Spanish occupation.
 On 17/2/2009 he was summoned to  Casablanca judiciary police  , then  he  has not been  heard of since then .
Police elements, in civilian clothes, searched his family house in Nador. They  confiscated his computer and some documents. He was accused of undermining the government efforts to  fight t drug smuggling. on 26/6/2009, he was sentenced to three years in prison  and a fine of about $ 750000 dirhams (68000 euros) for the Customs Administration.

   Since that date, Chakib Khayari lies in prison, the Moroccan government did not listen to any objections to the arrest of Chakib  from international organizations such as Human Rights Watch that called on the Moroccan authorities to release him immediately. HRW said it was clear from the repressive actions of the Moroccan authorities its intention to pressure and intimidate Khayari and  other human rights activists.
 In the Moroccan countryside, where Chakib is active , local authorities have blocked almost all attempts to  organize any event to demand the release of Khayari. Security  refused to permit  a consortium of organizations to meet in a public meeting hall in Nador, to prepare for  a collective measure. (Security did not intervene when the activists gathered in a nearby café).
Local authorities blocked similar actions in the nearby city of Al Hoceima, and the police on Nador  Mohamed AlHammouchi, vice president of “ALReef” Human Rights, for five hours about his contacts with international organizations and HRW visit to the area, among other things. A website under the title "Freedom for Chakib Khayari"  was created to provide an opportunity for sympathizers to send a protest and pressure on the Moroccan regime to release him.
    After the first instance ruling, Chakib’s defense team  appealed the verdict  amid calls from several interested parties, many of the organizations to the Moroccan government to  release him.The Moroccan government shook off all the pressure - which was soft enough - , and the Court of Appeal upheld  the sentence.
   The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information denounced the sentence in a  statement stating,  "This harsh sentence against Khiari, brings to memory  the  case of the  Moroccan activist Hassan Barhoun, whose struggle against corruption and drug barons led him to an imprisonment of six months in March 2009, which raises serious concern about exchanging  experience in fabrication of criminal cases against human rights activists, a bad experience pioneered by Tunisia and Bahrain”.