Moroccan prisoner of conscience Chekib El-Khiari released from prison

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL
PUBLIC STATEMENT

AI Index: MDE 29/002/2011
Date: 15 April 2011

Morocco royal pardon an encouraging step

Amnesty International has welcomed yesterday’s pardon of prisoner of conscience Chekib El-Khiari, jailed in June 2009 for speaking out against corruption. The organization has further welcomed yesterday’s bailing of three Sahrawi human rights activists, who had been detained since October 2009 but called on the charges against them to be dropped.

Amnesty International has expressed its hope that these releases would signal a relaxing of the “red lines” on criticism of the authorities and the question of Western Sahara which human rights activists have traditionally been forbidden to cross rather than a measure to pacify protesters calling for reform in Morocco and Western Sahara.

Chekib El-Khiari had been serving a three-year sentence, following his conviction on 24 June 2009 of undermining or insulting public institutions and violating a 1949 regulation on exchange control. Amnesty International considered the charges to be politically-motivated, and linked to his allegations that high-ranking Moroccan officials had been involved in a drug-trafficking ring.

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Group 48 adopts Moroccan prisoner of conscience

For many years, Group 48 focuses its work in several regions of the world: Central America, Central Africa, China, Indonesia, and Sudan (Darfur). A few months ago, one of our group founders, Jane Kristof pointed out that we haven’t worked on a prisoner of conscience (POC) for a long time. Taking her words to heart, Terri Rodello and I asked AIUSA staff to recommend a POC case to us. We were quickly assigned to Moroccan human rights defender and journalist, Chekib El-Khiari.

Chekib El-Khiari is serving a three-year prison sentence because he criticized Moroccan authorities and officials. On February 17, 2009, El-Khiari was summoned to report to the police in Casablanca. According to the state-run news agency Maghreb Arab Press, the General Crown Prosecutor at the Court of Appeals in Casablanca ordered the summons because of public statements El-Khiari had made, including on national television, alleging that high-ranking state officials in Rif were involved in drug-trafficking and corruption.

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