Human Rights Watch is not a fan of Morocco’s take on “peaceful protests,” and it has made it known several times.
Rabat – Soufiane Al-Nguad may not have realized the consequences of his decision to, condemn the Royal Moroccan Navy shooting of a young migrant, Hayat Belkacem, in September. Through Facebook posts, he called on people to mourn Belkacem’s death and protest at a football game in Tetouan in northern Morocco.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has launched a call on the Moroccan government to free al-Nguad, the 29-year-old co-owner of a real estate agency sentenced on September 25 to two years in prison for “inciting people to participate in an unauthorized protest,” hate and violence on Facebook.
Al-Nguad had also criticized the Moroccan government and kingdom, which authorities described as an “insult to the Moroccan flag,” a way of “spreading hatred,” and “calling for civil insurrection.”
HRW wrote in a statement published on Friday, titled: “Morocco: Free Facebook Commentator,” that Morocco’s sentencing of al-Nguad was “a violation of his right to free speech.” The organization called on the country to “review his conviction given its abusive nature.”
Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, expressed condemnation over the court’s decision to convict al-Nguad, saying: “Soufian al-Nguad did nothing but express his anger and urge protests over the killing of an innocent woman…. The charges against him are illegitimate, and he should be freed immediately.”
Al-Nguad’s case is on appeal, and the trial will continue on February 11. In addition to the prison term, a Court of First Instance in Tetouan fined al-Nguad MAD 20,000.
The court also charged the football fans who participated in the protest. Some of the fans were as young as 14, and the oldest arrested was only 23.
The Royal Moroccan Navy opened fire on a migrant boat off the coast of M’diq and Fnideq in the Mediterranean on September 25, killing Hayat Belkacem, a 20-year-old native of Tetouan. The shooting made international headlines and sparked large condemnation.