Moroccan activist on hunger strike

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An activist jailed in 2017 after protests in northern Morocco was admitted to a Tangier prison clinic after a seven-week hunger strike, his brother and lawyer said.

Rabii Ablaq was sentenced in June 2018 to five years on charges of “spreading fake news” and “reporting as a journalist without a permit,” following protests in 2016 over economic and social problems in northern Rif.

“He was admitted to the prison clinic after his health deteriorated and couldn’t walk when the lawyer came to visit him,” his brother Abdellatif told Reuters, urging immediate intervention to save his life.

His lawyer Souad Brahma said Ablaq had lost significant weight and was “unable to stand.”

Morocco’s prison administration was not immediately available for comment.

The administration said in a statement this week Ablaq never told them he was on a hunger strike and his daily activities showed “his health is normal.”

Ablaq is refusing to eat because of the conditions of his detention and demands to be released, said Aziz Ghali, head of rights group AMDH.

The prison administration did not allow an AMDH doctor to visit Ablaq, he said.

At the time of the protests, Ablaq was writing for the Badil news website, whose manager Hamid Mahdaoui was also sentenced in June 2018 to three years in prison on charges including “not reporting a crime against state security.”

Ablaq’s case drew support from rights groups in Morocco whose members staged a sit-in to demand immediate intervention to save his life. They also called for the release of Rif detainees, who were given sentences ranging from one year to 20 years on charges including threatening national unity.

Rif protests and unrest in the mining town of Jerada in early 2018 were the largest in Morocco since the Arab Spring protests in 2011.

Rights activists are planning sit-ins in Moroccan cities to commemorate three years since the Rif protests and demand the release of detainees.