May 24, 2018 / 6:29 PM / a year ago

Morocco's Rif protest leader on hunger strike, father says

RABAT (Reuters) - The leader of demonstrations that rattled the northern Moroccan town of Al Hoceime in 2017 has started a hunger strike against his solitary confinement, his father said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO - Moroccan activist and the leader of "Hirak" Nasser Zefzafi gives a speech during a demonstration against injustice and corruption in the northern town of Al-Hoceima, Morocco, May 18, 2017. REUTERS/Youssef Boudlal

Zefzafi is on trial for charges including threatening national security.

He was arrested in May 2017 and transferred to a prison in Casablanca after organizing demonstrations in his hometown of Al Hoceima in what came to be called as “Hirak al Chaabi”, or popular movement, venting frustration at economic problems.

“Nasser (Zefzafi) is on a hunger strike since Tuesday night in protest of his solitary confinement conditions,” his father told Reuters.

“He is only asking to meet his colleagues in prison, but authorities refuse him so,” Zefzafi’s father said.

His lawyer Naima Gallaf said on Facebook he had started the hunger strike in protest over what she called his degrading treatment in prison.

The protests erupted after the gruesome death of fishmonger Mouhcine Fikri in October 2017, who was crushed inside a rubbish truck trying to recover fish confiscated by police.

The Al Hoceima demonstrations along with the protests that hit the mining town of Jerada in early 2018 have been the most intense since the 2011 unrest that had prompted King Mohammed VI to devolve some of his powers to an elected parliament.

Separately, Amnesty International called for the release of human rights activist Zine Al Abidine Erradi who was arrested in the southern airport of Agadir on April 5 upon his arrival fruom France.

Erradi, who arrived in Morocco following his father’s death, was provided with a travel document by French authorities allowing him to go to Morocco without losing his refugee status in France, Amnesty International said.

Human Rights Minister Mustapha Ramid did not respond to a request for comment while the state prosecutor’s office declined to comment when contacted about both cases.

Reporting by Ahmed ElJechtimi; Editing by Ulf Laessing and Angus MacSwan

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