Authorities Shutter Moroccan Party Conference
Moroccan authorities shut down the closing day of a youth conference held in Tangiers by the ruling PJD due to “security concerns.” The last minute decision came just after the announcement of the addition of remarks from Prime Minister Benkirane to the final day’s program, but whether the two events are related remains unknown. Many in the conference had criticized Benkirane for his relationship with King Mohammed VI’s entourage, one many say lets the monarchy overshadow the elected government.
Additionally, a young Moroccan man was sentenced to three months in prison for eating in public during Ramadan. The youth was part of a small online movement during Ramadan to assert the right of non-believers to refrain from fasting. The Moroccan Association of Human Rights defended the youth’s actions as an “act of conviction” and an expression of personal freedom. Also, Said Ziani, a leader of the February 20 movement in Tangiers, was sentenced [French] to three months in prison and a $3,000 fine for “the illegal sale of cigarettes,” a charge many are calling trumped up and political.
Meanwhile in Morocco’s disputed Western Sahara region, a delegation from the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights drew criticism from some activists for “taking sides” while investigating human rights abuses in the territory. Specifically many in Morocco objected to the RFK Center’s visit to the home of separatist leader Aminato Haidar. Kerry Kennedy, who led the trip, recounted her visit to the Western Sahara capital of Laayoune, including her visit to Haidar whom she calls the “Sahrawi Gandhi.”
Also, the Economist published an article entitled “A Sahrawi Spring? Not Likely” due to the intense crackdowns on demonstrations in the region as well as the stalemate in negotiations that could potentially pressure the Moroccan government to respect the human rights of demonstrators.