Morocco: Campaign for 'Marrakesh 11' students
Amnesty International has launched a campaign for 11 students jailed in Morocco after they protested for better conditions and greater freedom of speech at their university.
The 11 students - Zohra Boudkhour (photo available), Galal Al-Qitbi, Abdelallah Al-Rashidi, Alaa Al-Dirbali, Mohamed Gamili, Youssef Mashdoufi, Mohamed Al-Arabi Gadi, Youssef Al-Alawi, Khaled Mouftah, Mourad Al-Chouni and Ousman Al-Chouni - all from Cadi Ayyad Marrakesh University, took part in a demonstration during 14-15 May 2008. Their appeal is now due to be heard on 17 February.
At the 2008 demonstrations there were violent confrontations between police officers and students, and the police were accused by students of using excessive force. Eighteen students were originally arrested and allegedly tortured in police vehicles or in detention. The students reportedly had clearly visible injuries when they later appeared before a public prosecutor. However, there were no independent investigations of the torture allegations and the detainees were not given proper medical treatment.
Despite this, the 18 were found guilty of numerous offences including “participating in an armed gathering” and “contempt of and attacks on” public officials on duty and destroying public property. Seven have already served prison terms but the “Marrakesh 11” remain in prison serving sentences of up to four years as well as being required to pay large fines. Amnesty believes the students are political prisoners and is calling for proper investigations into torture claims and for an appeal hearing which meets fair trial standards.
Amnesty International UK Student Network Coordinator Verity Coyle said
“The Marrakesh 11 are back in court this month and it’s important that we send a clear message to the Moroccan authorities that their treatment has been appalling and totally unacceptable.
“We’re asking people to support our campaign at www.amnesty.org.uk/Marrakesh11. Please go online and tell the Moroccan authorities to investigate the torture allegations and ensure that the Marrakesh 11 get a fair hearing at their appeal.”
The 11 students are scheduled to have an appeal case heard at the Marrakesh Court of Appeal on 17 February. They are detained together at the Marrakesh Civil Prison and are afraid that if the conviction is confirmed they will be separated and transferred to different prisons across Morocco.
The May 2008 student protests at the Cadi Ayyad Marrakesh University came after months of dispute between students and the university administration. On 25 April 2008 the police had prevented a student march which resulted in confrontations between students and police and the detention of a number of students. The march was intended as a show of solidarity with approximately 20 students hospitalised with food poisoning, allegedly as a result of eating university campus cafeteria food.
Take action - ask the Moroccan authorities to investigate allegation of torture