An arbitrary law in Morocco is sending activists to jail

Published November 8th, 2015 - 11:36 GMT
Moroccan protesters hold posters during a demonstration in Rabat in support of Maati Monjib on Oct. 21, 2015. (AFP/Fadel Senna)
Moroccan protesters hold posters during a demonstration in Rabat in support of Maati Monjib on Oct. 21, 2015. (AFP/Fadel Senna)

After five activists in Morocco were charged with "undermining internal security," Human Rights Watch on Sunday urged a law to be abolished and questioned the direction the country is heading.

Maati Monjib, a university professor in Rabat, and four others will be tried Nov. 19 after being arrested late October. If convicted, the sentence can grant up to five years in prison.

The charge comes from the country's penal code article 206, which allows charges of compromising state security from "directly or indirectly" engaging in activities or "propaganda." It's a law that's largely open to interpretation, leaving activists in the kingdom vulnerable to arbitrary charges. 

Monjib wrote several articles that were critical of the government and led efforts for dialogue between Islamists and leftists to create an opposition front, according to Human Rights WatchThe well-regarded academic is known for his hunger strike last month after he was charged with undermining "state institutions" and banned from travel without warning.

The Moroccan government has previously refused to grant legal recognition to a group he co-founded, banned meetings organized by his research center, and charged his colleague with adultery on questionable evidence. 

Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW Middle East and North Africa director, said the charges show the country's acceptance for "critical thinking and expression is shrinking."

“Maati Monjib may be the common factor that links a series of repressive measures taken over the last two years,” Whitson said in a statement. “But this is not only about one activist — it’s about Morocco’s growing intolerance of critics and outspoken associations, and of the legitimate foreign funding that supports some of them.”

By Hayat Norimine


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