RABAT, Sept 17, 2012 (AFP) -
RABAT, Sept 17, 2012 (AFP) –
Human Rights Watch on Monday urged Morocco to probe claims that the confessions of opposition activists jailed last week for assaulting police officers during a protest were obtained through torture.
A Casablanca court last Wednesday handed prison terms of between eight and 10 months to five members of the February 20 opposition movement in what the New York-based right watchdog said may have been an “unfair trial.”
“The court sent protesters to jail on the basis of confessions allegedly obtained under torture, while refusing to summon the complainants to be heard in court,” said Eric Goldstein, HRW’s deputy director for Middle East and North Africa.
“Morocco can guarantee fair trials only when courts seriously investigate allegations of coerced confessions and dismiss as evidence any confessions the police obtained improperly.”
The judicial authorities were not immediately available for comment.
The jailed male protesters, who all denied the charges against them, said the police beat and tortured them, with the alleged abuses including pulling out eyelashes, stripping the defendants and inserting fingers in their anuses.
Four of the five male defendants said they had signed their confessions under torture.
But the defendants’ lawyers said the only evidence linking them to the main charge of assaulting the police were their confessions and a complaint by one policeman that a female activist, who was given a suspended term, had bitten him.
Three defence witnesses described seeing police using violence against the demonstrators during the July 22 “unauthorised demonstration,” while no policeman or witness for the prosecution testified in court, HRW said.
Moroccan human rights groups estimate nearly 70 members of the February 20 movement are currently in jail, and activists have held protests to demand their release, including one in Casablanca late last month.