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Seven activists arrested, two allegedly tortured, all sentenced to prison for criticising royalty during Labour Day event

(HRinfo/IFEX) - HRinfo calls upon the Moroccan authorities to release the civil society activists who were arrested after 1 May 2007 demonstrations and charged with "insulting sacred doctrines." HRinfo also call for an end to the government's crackdown on freedom of opinion and expression.

The crackdown began on 1 May. Security forces broke into the Moroccan workers' union headquarters in Agadir, immediately following the Labor Day walk. Union and other activists were beaten and abducted, including Abd el Rehim Qarad, a member of the executive office of the National Syndicate for Farmers, and Mahdy el Barboushy, a member of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights.

On the same day, many arrests and investigations were conducted in Al-Qasr Al-Kabeer City. El Tuhamy El Khayat, chair of the National Association for Unemployed Graduates, was arrested and interrogated, then was released only to be re-arrested on 3 May, together with four other activists: Rabie el Risouny, Yousef el Rakab, Osama Bin Masoud and Ahmed el Kaatib.

All the named activists were charged with "insulting sacred doctrines."

On 10 May, the Court of First Instance in Agadir issued a verdict sentencing Abd el Rehim Qarad and Mahdy el Barboushy to two years in prison and charging them a fine of 10,000 dirhams (approx. US$1,200), despite their claim that confessions were extracted from them under torture.

On 22 May, the Court of First Instance in Al-Qasr Al-Kabeer City issued a verdict charging the four detainees in that city with "insulting sacred doctrines." They were sentenced to three years in prison and a fine of 10,000 dirhams.

"We couldn't understand the relationship between 'sacred doctrines' and Labor Day, but when we gathered more information, we found out that the charge is 'insulting royal doctrines'. The phrasing of the published news was unfair and deceitful, moreover, as arresting activists for criticizing royalty is a violation of their freedom of expression, and when criticizing royalty becomes 'an insult to sacred doctrines', the government's crime becomes even more dangerous," said Gamal Eid, executive director of HRinfo.

HRinfo declares its complete solidarity with the Moroccan Association for Human Rights and the detained civil society activists, and calls for their release. It also expresses its fears that this is the beginning of a regression away from growing democratic openness in Morocco. These incidents remind us of the harsh years experienced by Moroccan activists, and highlight the need for democratic struggle to avoid a return to those days.

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