6th day of the hunger strike

I post this in solidarity with 5 Moroccan political prisoners.  Two years ago, they were arrested by Moroccan authorities, held without bail, put through a farce of a trial, and now are going through another charade called an appeal.  The history of the case is too much for me to go into right now.  Officially they are being accused of a kind of guilt by association to a man named Belliraj, who may or may not have been a double agent working for both Moroccan and Belgian security.  The true reality?  It’s hard to know, the case is complex.  I think they are being punished not for any alleged crimes, but for pointing out certain flagrant flaws in the electoral system in Morocco, among other things.

The political prisoners are desperate, they have not been given a fair trial, and no one is listening.  As a last resort, they have started an open hunger strike, as of Monday March 22nd.  That means that they have been without food for six days, as of this posting.  They need to the world to hear them, to pay attention, to give their case some consideration.

The following was sent to me by someone dear to my heart, who is very close to prisoners’ plight.  She has attended much of the first trial, and now is attending the appeals trial.  What she recounts to me is nothing but a joke.  She tells me stories of interpreters not actually interpreting correctly, of an unruly courtroom where the judge has little power, of documents being falsified and everyone just turning a blind eye to them, and so much more.

I shudder to think of ever being a position where I was at the mercy of this legal system.

Here is her testimony:

“17 of the 34 detainees in the Belliraj case, including the 5 remaining political detainees* have been on an open hunger strike since last Monday.  Their demands are not that they be released or declared innocent.  What they’re asking for is a chance at a fair trial.  The appeals process thus far has been an even bigger joke than the trial.  Every single one of the defense’s requests is turned down.  We’re not talking about big things like providing evidence or witnesses, we’re not even there yet.  We’re still at the stage of requestion translations, little things.

I don’t know if you heard the bombshell that was dropped a few weeks into the appeal.  Apparently the people who drafted up the official document with the sentences were so distraught they forgot to put “In the Name of His Majesty…. ” in the header, therebye, legally speaking, rendering the whole thing invalid. This could have slid unnoticed. But then, the document (now the defense all has copies of the original) was later falsified, ok let’s say rectified, with the King’s name on it. The defense now has both copies, proving flagrant falsification of documents.

The judge decided to disregard the whole thing.

This is one of the very small example of the violations of the right to a fair trial.

This is in addition to everything that preceded, including arrest and search without identification or warrants, torture, falsification of signed “confessions” (the detainees were made to sign 20 to 30 of what was supposed to be copies of the original, a 20 page document itself , without being given the chance to read through them.  The contect was later changed and attached to the signed page).

Last Thursday, the defense team for the political detainees withdrew as a protest, and with it several other lawyers for the other prisoners.  Yesterday Belliraj’s lawyer announced his withdrawal too.

With all this, the judge is continuing the trial as though nothing out of the ordinary is going on.  The trial was postponed form last Wednesday till Monday. The prisoners will be on their 8th day without food, one of them has already been taken to the hospital, there’s no defense team… but the trial goes on.

Check out yesterday’s Al Massae for the story on Belliraj’s lawyer, and for a poignant interview with one of the detainees’ daughter, Soumya Moatassim.

Right now there’s urgency because these people are on a hunger strike, open, ongoing until something happens. I don’t know what will happen first.  Will one of them die before something changes? I feel that no one’s paying attention.  The world has to know.  It’s crucial right now for Morocco to be seen as a model in terms of human rights. It needs to live up to what it wants as an image.

(*Mohamed Najibi, the 6th of the political detainees was released after he finished his 2 year sentence, but he’s still attending the appeals hearings, terrified that the judge will reverse the sentence and send him back to jail.)”