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Morocco: Multiple Arrests Against Activists

This page is part of our special coverage Morocco Protests 2011.

There has been a sudden surge in arrests among pro-democracy activists and online campaigners in Morocco in recent days. Three have occurred in the past week alone. Little has been reported in the press and it took bloggers to report on the arrests for the traditional media in Morocco to pick up on the stories.

The anti-corruption campaigner

The first arrest occurred on Monday when authorities in the northern city of Fnidaq apprehended blogger and anti-corruption campaigner Mohamed Douas. Mohamed is the founder of a community news website called Fnidaq Online.

The arrest, according to his friends and supporters, might be related to a Facebook group, Wikileaks Fnidaq, Mohamed founded and where he published documents allegedly exposing corruption within the local administration. Mohamed was accused of drug trafficking but a group of bloggers and online activists say the accusation is baseless.

Hamid Salim writing on Young Immigrants says the judicial process is biased and politically motivated. He writes [ar]:

التهمة ملفقة والملف مفبرك، مرجحا أن يكون السبب الحقيقي لاعتقال المدون محمد دواس في هذا الوقت بالذات، هو مناهضته للفساد وكشف تورط عدد من المسؤولين في المنطقة في قضايا فساد ومخدرات.

Charges were fabricated and the likely reason behind Mohamed's arrest, at this particular time, was his campaign against corruption and the fact he revealed the involvement of a number of regional officials in cases of corruption and drug trafficking.

A group of supporters gathered in front of the courthouse where Mohamed appeared before a judge on Thursday. In the following video (by Reporters sans limites) [ar] bloggers and activists express support for M. Douas. They describe the proceedings as unfair:

The rapper

Free Moad – picture posted on Moad's support page on Facebook

Another activist, rapper Moad Belghouat, alias Haked (Arabic for The Vindictive or The Outraged) was arrested on Friday on charges of assaulting a pro-regime demonstrator. Moad is a an active member of the Moroccan pro-democracy youth movement known as February 20.

Words of support for Moad abound on Twitter and Facebook. Blogger Ghassan Wail writes:

The 20th february movement is a protest movement in the spirit of the “Arab spring” and has been fighting for more democracy, liberty, dignity and social justice over the last seven months. Haked is one of the artists highly involved in this movement. His lyrics are famous for being outspoken and critical about the Moroccan regime. He criticizes corruption, clientelism, the oligarchy of a few families in Morocco and the monarchy's excessive wealth.
Free Moad Haked.

Moad's support group counts over a thousand members on Facebook.

On Sunday activists marched in solidarity with Moad Haked wearing T-shirts bearing the phrase “Free Haked or arrest us all.”

Free Haked – Picture from support group on Facebook

Moad supporters released the following video [ar] showing people holding a sign calling for the release of the rapper:

The poet

On Saturday, poet and political satirist Younes Belmalha, a.k.a Inkicharia, was reportedly detained. He is known for his humorous and irreverent videos mostly critical of the regime. Shortly after the news of the arrest, netizens reported that Younes’ YouTube channel was being emptied of its video content. It is not clear at this point what Younes has been arrested for nor whether the deletion of the videos was the result of a third party intervention.

Following is a video [ar] of Younes reciting one of his poems. He deplores nepotism and corruption in the Moroccan society. The video is hosted by M20FevBel on YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CqiCM497WuQ&feature=player_embedded

Younes was reportedly released on Sunday. No details have emerged as to why he was apprehended.

Has anything really changed?

These arrests come only two months after the country adopted a supposedly democratic constitution, described by its advocates as one that would guarantee greater freedom of expression. Blogger Don Aminos wonders [fr]:

La question que je me pose aujourd'hui, à l'heure où tous les tyrans tombent les uns après les autres, quel résultat attendent les autorités de ces arrestations arbitraires ? La peur a basculé de camp. Vouloir intimider les manifestants me parait suicidaire puisque cela ne fait que renforcer la crédibilité du mouvement et cristalliser la haine des citoyens contre le régime. Mais est-ce que le roi est informé de ces arrestations arbitraires qui vont à l'encontre de ses intérêts? Est si oui, quelle est sa réaction ou sa position sur la question ? Lui qui nous a habitué à des beaux discours soporifiques sur la place de la jeunesse dans la société et les efforts qui vont être entrepris en sa faveur.

The question I ask myself today is: at a time when all the tyrants are falling all around us, what results do the authorities think they will get out of these arrests? Fear has switched sides. To try to intimidate protesters seems to me to be suicidal as it only reinforces the credibility of the [pro-democracy] movement and crystallizes the hatred against the regime. But is the king informed of these arrests that go against his own interests? If so, what is his response or position? He, who has accustomed us with his soporific rhetoric on the role of the youth in society and the efforts made in its favor.

This page is part of our special coverage Morocco Protests 2011.

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