Fears grow for Moroccan ac­tivist on hunger strike

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Hu­man rights groups have raised fears for a de­tained Moroccan ac­tivist who was hos­pi­tal­ized 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 de­fense 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.—AFP

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