October 13, 2005 - Updated on January 20, 2016

Journalist on hunger strike after more than three years in jail under false pretences

Reporters Without Borders called today for the immediate release of imprisoned journalist Abderrahmane El Badraoui, who began an indefinite hunger strike on 7 October in protest against his transfer on 5 October to Mohammedia prison, near Casablanca, 150 km from where his family lives in Rabat. The former editor of the weekly Al-Moulahid Assiyassi (“The Political Observatory”), Badraoui had until then been held in Salé prison, just outside Rabat. He has been detained since January 2002. “This journalist became a nuisance by incriminating senior police officers and has been held for more than three years on false pretences, the victim of a conviction engineered by people he had exposed,” Reporters Without Borders said. Reached by telephone, Badraoui's lawyer told Reporters Without Borders that his imprisonment was the result of a “judicial blunder.” The lawyer, Abdelsammad Lemrabet, said: “He has been tried twice on the same charges, which proves there was a procedural irregularity.” Conditions in Mohammedia prison are terrible. The daily food ration is just half a baguette of bread. Badraoui, who has a bad back, had to pay 500 dirhams (46 euros) for his “place” in the prison. Inmates cannot get medicine or see a doctor. Since his transfer eight days ago, he has been allowed to see his wife for only five minutes. He was held with political prisoners in Salé prison. But in Mohammedia, he has been put in a 40-square-metre cell with 38 common criminals. It seems the decision to transfer him was taken because he had managed to set up a website from Salé prison with the help of a friend on the outside in which he criticised his imprisonment. Badraoui was arrested after publishing two reports in late 2001 about the expropriation of a French family in Kénitra (40 km north of Rabat) by local dignitaries and alleged embezzlement by senior police officers in Témara, near Rabat. The issue of Al-Moulahid Assiyassi containing the two articles was seized. The weekly has not been published since January 2002, when he was arrested. Badraoui was originally accused in 1998 of fraudulently posing as a journalist by one of the brokers involved in the Kénitra case. The case was dropped after Badraoui produced official documents proving that he was a journalist. Despite being acquitted by the Rabat appeal court, he was against tried on the same charge in January 2002 and was given a five-year prison sentence that was reduced on appeal to four years. Rabat public prosecutor Hassan Laoufi initiated an investigation into the Rabat plain-clothes police department on suspicion of trying to silence Badraoui. The case is still open.