Morocco: Journalist on hunger strike in a serious condition

The organisation is concerned about his life as he has been on hunger strike since 6 May 2003 in protest at a court case brought against him by the authorities, and is asking British journalists to support his case.

Amnesty International considers Lmrabet a prisoner of conscience being punished for exercising his right to freedom of expression.

Ali Lmrabet is an editor-in-chief of two Moroccan satirical weekly magazines that published extracts of an interview with a former political prisoner on the Western Sahara and a cartoon commenting on the budget for the royal household.

The publications were banned and he was sentenced to four years imprisonment and a fine of 20,000 dirhams (approximately 2,000 US dollars) for insulting King Mohamed VI, 'undermining the monarchy' and 'threatening the integrity of the national territory'.

Ali Lmrabet was jailed immediately after sentencing, despite indicating that he would appeal against the verdict. The court in Rabat invoked 'special circumstances', which is unusual for a case involving violation of press laws.

Lmrabet has previously faced criminal charges. On 21 November 2001, he was sentenced to four months imprisonment and fine of 30,000 dirhams (approximately 3,000 US dollars). The charge related to an article revealing that a royal palace would be sold to foreign investors wanting to turn it in a tourist complex.

This sentence was on a base of 'disseminating false information which undermines public order or is likely to undermine it'. Although he was sentenced he had been allowed to remain at liberty on that occasion until the court had ruled on his appeal.

Nora Cranston, Amnesty International's Journalist Network Coordinator said:

'The imprisonment of Ali Lmrabet shows just how difficult life as a journalist can be in Morocco. Freedom of expression is a fundamental right and Ali Lmrabet should be released immediately before it is too late. Amnesty International's Journalist Network will be campaigning on Ali Lmrabet's case until he is released.'

Take Action Now

The organisation is urging UK journalists to take action by appealing to:

Justice Minister
M.Mohamed Bouzoubaa
Minister de Justice
Ministere de la Justice
Place Mamounia
Rabat
Morocco
Fax: 00 212 37 72 37 10/ 73 07 72/ 73 89 40

Embassy of Morocco
Mr Mohammed Belmahi
Embassy of Morocco
49 Queen's Gate Gardens
London SW7
Fax: 020 7225 3862
Email: mail@sifamaldin.org

Further information

Questioning the monarchy or Morocco's right to Western Sahara remain taboo subjects in the North African kingdom. Western Sahara is the subject of a territorial dispute between Morocco and the self-proclaimed government in exile, known as the Polisario Front. Morocco annexed the territory in 1975 and claims sovereignty there.

Any journalist interested in joining the Journalist Network should contact Amnesty International on 020 7417 6370 or e-mail: nora.cranston@amnesty.org.uk

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