Moroccan judge orders provisional release of dissident historian

Maati Monjib, a professor of political history and African studies at the University of Rabat and a writer for national and international news organisations, and his supporters participate in a demonstration near the "Moroccan Human Rights Association" (AMDH) in Rabat October 28, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer

(Reuters) - A Moroccan judge on Tuesday ordered the provisional release of dissident writer and rights activist Maati Monjib, who was held in custody pending an investigation into money-laundering allegations, in a case that has worried rights defenders.

His release was confirmed by his lawyer Mohamed Messaoudi.

Monjib has been on a hunger strike since March 4, triggering a wave of solidarity by rights groups in Morocco and abroad calling for his release.

A university historian who writes frequent newspaper editorials, Monjib has often criticised Morocco’s record on freedom of expression and human rights.

In late December, a judge ordered Monjib to be taken into custody pending an investigation in a case of laundering foreign funds relating to his management of a research centre in Rabat. Monjib denied the charges.

A month later, he was sentenced to one year in prison on charges of endangering internal state security and fraud, in a case dating back to 2015. His lawyers said they appealed the verdict.

A national solidarity committee with Monjib, composed of Moroccan rights NGOs and prominent activists, said his arrest was “arbitrary”.

Moroccan authorities have often denied waging a campaign against free speech, saying the police and courts are just implementing national laws.

Earlier this month, a group of Moroccan rights NGOs described the increasing use of pre-trial detention as a human rights violation.

Reporting by Ahmed Eljechtimi; Editing by Steve Orlofsky