Moroccan journalist freed after 20 days on hunger strike
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is relieved and overjoyed by Moroccan journalist and historian Maati Monjib’s release from a prison near Rabat after 20 days on a hunger strike that was putting his life in danger.
Monjib, who also has French citizenship, had begun the hunger strike on 4 March in protest against the one-year prison sentence on charges of “fraud” and “undermining state security” that he received from a court in Rabat on 27 January.
“We are delighted to learn that Maati Monjib has been released,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “Both the manifest iniquity of his trial and his state of health demanded it. All of the judicial proceedings against him and other falsely accused Moroccan journalists must be abandoned without delay, before other lives are put in danger.”
Monjib, 59, was freed four days after RSF staff members demonstrated outside the Moroccan embassy in Paris to press demands for his release. Visibly thinner, he emerged at around 8 p.m. yesterday from Al Arjat 2 prison, where he had been held since 29 December. According to the information currently available to RSF, he has not been banned from leaving Morocco.
His lawyers and support committee dispute the legality of the 27 January hearing at which he was sentenced to a year in prison and a fine of 15,000 dirhams (1,400 euros), because it was held in his absence and his lawyers were not even notified that it was taking place, let alone invited to attend. His appeal is due to be heard on 6 April.
The judicial authorities are also due to decide in the next few days whether to prosecute him on another patently trumped-up charge, one of money-laundering, the charge on which he was arrested in late December.
Monjib is one of Morocco’s leading human rights defenders as well as a respected journalist and columnist. He is a member of the editorial committee of the online and print magazine Zamane and, until his arrest, wrote a column every two weeks for the London-based newspaper Alquds Alarabi.
He founded the Ibn Rochd Centre for Studies and Communication and as the founder of the Moroccan Association for Investigative Journalism (AMJI), he has helped to train more than 450 Moroccan journalists.
The Moroccan authorities have been harassing him for years because of his activities in defence of press freedom and human rights. He previously staged a three-week hunger strike in October 2015 after being banned from leaving the country to attend international conferences.
Morocco is ranked 133rd out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.