Rabat – Nasser Zefzafi’s father’s tour to Europe to campaign for his son’s release has borne fruit. The lead activist of the Hirak Rif movement has been announced as a potential candidate for the Sakharov Prize of 2018, granted by the European Parliament for Freedom of Thought.
Accompanied by a Moroccan delegation, Ahmed Zefzafi spoke at the European Parliament, advancing the cause of the Hirak Rif and raising awareness on the conditions of his son and the other detainees in prison.
Jamal Al Kutbi, a member of the delegation, said that Zefzafi’s father received news that his son is a candidate for the EUR 50,000 Sakharov Prize, during a meeting with one of the European parliamentarians. “I accompanied Mr. Ahmed [Zefzafi] to the Dutch Parliament and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva,” said Al Kutbi.
The parliamentary deputy invited Zefzafi’s father “to participate next January in the European Parliament and promised to receive his son Nasser immediately after his release.”
Zefzafi and other detained activists went on a hunger strike in order to protest their detention. On December 5, the leading activist was rushed to a hospital during his trial at Casablanca’s Court of Appeal.
The detained Hirak activists are facing a variety of charges, including “undermining the internal security of the state,” according to Casablanca’s court.
“This deputy was persuaded by Amnesty International’s latest report, which considered Nasser Zefzafi and the other Rif prisoners innocent and that their detention is illegal,” Al Kutbi said.
In a communique published late November in its official website, the NGO denounced the “relentless” crackdown on Rif protesters in recent months, calling the detained protesters “prisoners of conscience.”
“The authorities must free Nasser Zefzafi and others detained for protesting peacefully or covering demonstrations online,” stressed Heba Morayef, AI’s North Africa Research Director.
The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought honors individuals and groups of people who have dedicated their lives to the defense of human rights and freedom of thought. Established in 1988 in honor of Soviet physicist and dissident Andrei Sakharov. The prize is presented annually and past recipients include Nelson Mandela, the Argentine Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, and Pakistani feminist Malala Yousafzai.
This year, the European Parliament honored Venezuela’s right-wing opposition with its prestigious award. The results are officially announced in October of each year at an official ceremony held at Parliament House in Strasbourg, France.