Rabat - Two former prisoners of Hirak Rif have spoken about their experience in an interview with French channel TV5 Monde.
Rabat – Two former prisoners of Hirak Rif have spoken about their experience in an interview with French channel TV5 Monde.
Nourdine El Kebdani and Khalid Cheikh, arrested for involvement in the Al Hoceima protests, were recently released.
Both ex-prisoners stated the duration of time they spent in prison. Cheikh was sentenced to 8 months in prison and El Kebdani to 7 months. Neither thought they would risk prison just for calling for the rule of law, they told TV5 Monde.
However, Cheikh and El Kebdani were also reported among the list of Hirak Rif detainees sentenced to 18 months in prison, published in the media in June 2017.
An unofficial list of detained Hirak Rif activists, which included both Cheikh and El Kebdani, was published on June 2017.
The two released Hirak activists denounced the intimidation they have been subject to since their arrest.
“Our demands are only social and economic. They are all legitimate. We ask nothing; we asked for a hospital and a school, which are simple projects. The state can do that very easily,” Cheikh told TV5 Monde.
El Kebdani was arrested in May 2017 in the main public square of Al Hoceima, near demonstrations. He said he was waiting for a friend when the police ordered him to leave. He answered that he had the right to be there.
‘When I walk in the street, I feel afraid’
El Kebdani spoke about his arrest and the constant pressure he has felt even after his release.
In the beginning, El Kebdani thought that he would spend only three days in custody. Then he realized that the arrest did not concern only him, but was linked to Hirak Rif. The police report was made in the middle of the night, he told the French channel.
“At 3 a.m., while I was asleep, they told me ‘Get up! Stand up!’ They were dressed like ninjas: scientific police, anti-terrorism police, armed, as if we were criminals,” he said.
“It’s psychological pressure. Even today, I’m sick of it. When I came out of prison, I saw a psychologist. He gave me medicine. But until now when I walk in the street, I feel afraid. I tell myself they would arrest me.”
The two are among the first detained Hirak activists to be released from prison. Cheikh claimed to be close to Nasser Zefzafi, the leader of the protest movement.
Many activists were arrested in May and June 2017 for their involvement in protests that rocked Al Hoceima in 2016 and 2017. On June 26, 2018, Casablanca’s Court of Appeals sentenced 54 Hirak Rif activists to 1 to 20 years in prison. Two figureheads of the protest, Nasser Zefzafi and Nabil Ahemjik, in addition to Ouassim El Boustati and Samir Ghid, received 20 years in prison.
None of the former prisoners were considered by the public as martyrs, according to the French channel. A legal battle for the other convicted activists continues, as their sentences are on appeal. “The defense wants to prove that the law was flouted even before the trials,” the same source added.
“Today, as Morocco changes and progresses, a citizen still cannot prove the opposite of what was written in the police reports,” Abdelmajid Azaryah, a lawyer for Hirak Al Hoceima activists, told TV5 Monde.
While on spot, TV5 Monde described the scene in Al Hoceima as calm and under maximum security.