Hungering for justice: Saharawi political prisoners on hunger strike
Ali Salem Tamek, Brahim Dahane and Ahmed Naciri have spent over 16 months in prison without being sentenced by a court. Demanding to be tried fairly or released, they've now gone on hunger strike. Read a background briefing on these imprisoned human rights defeders here.
By: The follow-up committee of the open hunger strike of the Saharawi prisoners of conscience in Okacha prison in Casablanca/Morocco
Al-Aaiun/Western Sahara, on 23 February 2011
Briefing on the Saharawi political prisoners in Casablanca prison and their open hunger strike
The Saharawi Human Rights Defenders and prisoners of conscience - Ali Salem Tamek, Brahim Dahane and Ahmad Nasiri - have started an open hunger strike on Tuesday 22 Feb 2011, in Casablanca prison. They demand their right to a fair trial or their unconditional release.
This is their 6th hunger strike since their arrest and the third one in Casablanca prison after they were transferred from Salé prison. Their trial has been continuously postponed.
The three Saharawi political prisoners are still under arrest without any verdict. Ever since their first hunger strike – which lasted 41 days – they’ve been demanding their right for a fair trial or to be unconditionally released. The 41 days of hunger strike were ended by an indirect dialogue with the Moroccan authorities, resulting in an improvement of their situation inside the prison (Salé prison), referral of the case from a military to a civilian court and the provisional release Saleh Lebaihi, Yahdih Ettarrouzi and Rachid Sghayar. But it didn’t take long for the Moroccan authorities to resume punishing the Sahrawi prisoners of conscience, denying them their basic rights in Casablanca prison, mobilizing Moroccan lawyers and citizens to physically and verbally assault the Saharawi detainees, their families, the international observers and journalists throughout the five sessions of their trial in Casablanca court.
The follow-up committee of the open hunger strike of the Saharawi human rights defenders under arrest in Casablanca prison (Okacha prison)/Morocco, presents this briefing as a background to the prisoners’ hunger strike in the coming days. The committee will be reporting on the prisoners’ health which is weak as a result of previous abductions, torture and several politically motivated incarcerations related to the prisoners’ position on the Western Sahara issue and their human rights activities.
1. Health status of the Saharawi prisoners and their number of hunger strikes:
Ali Salem Tamek (38 years old); arrested on 8 October 2009 in Mohamed V airport in Casablanca/Morocco. Has done 6 hunger strikes since his arrest, the longest one lasted 41 days. Suffers from severe asthma, allergies, ulcers, haemorrhoids, intestinal tract, anaemia, nerve, skin diseases, urinal tract and arthritis.
Brahim Dahane (46 years old); arrested on 8 October 2009 in Mohamed V airport in Casablanca/Morocco. Has done 6 hunger strikes since his arrest, the longest one lasted 41 days. Suffers from ulcers, breathing difficulties and blood pressure.
Ahmad Naciri (40 years old); arrested on 8 October 2009 in MohamedV airport in Casablanca/Morocco. Has done 6 hunger strikes since his arrest, the longest one lasted 41 days. Suffers from heart problems, ulcers, kidney failure and diminishing eyes functions.
2. Chronology of events and facts:
· Date of arrest: 08 October 2009 in Casablanca airport (Mohamed V airport)/Morocco.
· The group consisting of Ali Salem Tamek, Brahim Dahane, Degja Lachgar, Ahmad Naciri, Saleh Lebaihi, Yahdih Ettarrouzi and Rachid Sghayar, was brought before the prosecutor general who represents the king and the investigating judge of the military court in Rabat/Morocco on 16 October 2009.
· On the same day, the group was referred to Salé prison, where each detainee was put in solitary confinement for about 05 months.
· On 28 January 2010, the Moroccan authorities released “Degja Lachgar” because of her deteriorating mental and health condition in the women’s wing of the local prison of Sale / Morocco.
· On 18 May 2010, the Moroccan authorities released Saleh Lebaihi, Yahdih Ettarrouzi and Rachid Sghayar.
· On 21 September 2010, the investigating judge of the military court in Rabat/Morocco decided he wasn’t competent to handle the case. The case was brought back to the Court of Appeal in Casablanca / Morocco, who in turn referred it to the Court of First Instance of Ain Sbaa in the same city.
· On 15 October 2010, the Court of Ain Sbaa/Casablanca announced that they will try the Saharawi prisoners of conscience, both those who are currently under arrest and those who have been temporarily released. The trial was postponed until 05 February 2010, when all the detainees were summoned.
· On 03 November 2010, the Head of the Prison Administration in coordination with the intelligence forces (Gendarmerie, police) transferred Ali Salem Tamek, Brahime Dahane and Ahmad Naciri from Salé prison to Okacha prison in Casablanca.
· The three prisoners were jailed in Casablanca prison, room N° 01 in wing 12 which has been constructed for isolation and is subject to a strict penal system. Here, the group was stripped of all their rights, there was no respect for their needs and their belongings had been left behind in Salé prison.
3. Overview of adjournments:
· The first hearing was on 15 October 2010.
· The second hearing was on 05 November 2010.
· The third hearing was on 17 December 2010.
· The fourth hearing was on 07 January 2011.
· The fifth hearing was on 14 january 2011.
4. Delays sentencing:
First hearing on the verdict was on 28 January 2011. Second hearing of the verdict was on 11 February 2011, but was postponed until further notice, citing that two witnesses needed to be called to court to complete the look, namely the Saharawi human rights defender Mohamad Elmotaouakil and Aicha Dahane.
5. Demands of the Saharawi prisoners of conscience who are on hunger strike in Okacha prison in Casablanca/Morocco:
· Termination of solitary confinement (private security, prevention from sports and using the library of the prison ...etc).
· To be allowed full share of nutrition.
· Retrieval of all their belongings that are still in Salé prison (covers, utensils, books ...etc).
Africa's last colony
Since 1975, three quarters of the Western Sahara territory has been illegally occupied by Morocco. The original population lives divided between those suffering human rights abuses under the Moroccan occupation and those living in exile in Algerian refugee camps. For more than 40 years, the Saharawi await the fulfilment of their legitimate right to self-determination.