Moroccan intellectual suspends hunger strike, faces charges: lawyer

RABAT, Oct 29 (Reuters) - A prominent Moroccan intellectual has suspended his hunger strike after authorities ended a travel ban, but has been charged with receiving foreign funds with the intent to undermine Moroccan institutions, his lawyers said.

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

Maati Monjib, a professor of political history and writer, went on hunger strike three weeks ago in protest against the travel ban and what he said was police harassment. He had collapsed twice and been hospitalized.

Authorities said they imposed the ban because of their investigation into suspected financial wrongdoing in an institution Monjib had been running. He was prevented from boarding a flight to Barcelona last month.

His lawyers announced the charges on Thursday and Monjib has been questioned but remains free pending further investigation.

Moroccan officials could not be reached immediately for a comment.

Monjib is known in Morocco for supporting Moroccan investigative journalism. He has criticized the monarchy in columns in the foreign press in the past and once ran a center that held meetings that included opposition groups.

It was Monjib’s second hunger strike after authorities banned him this month from boarding a plane to Norway for a conference. Last month, he went on hunger strike for three days after being prevented from traveling to Barcelona.

“I decided to suspend my hunger strike as they lifted the ban. But we will see if they will end all form of harassment against me and my family,” Monjib told Reuters.

His lawyers said Monjib was facing accusations of receiving foreign funds to destabilize Moroccan confidence in their institutions and endangering national security. No details were available.

“The trial will start on November 19, and he faces up to five years in prison if sentenced,” his lawyer Abderrahim Jamai said.

He has closed his Ibn Rochd (Averroes) Institute, saying authorities had banned many of its meetings and conferences.

The institute and the Moroccan association of investigative journalism (AMJI), another group with which Monjib was involved, have been funded by Netherlands-based organizations Free Press Unlimited and International Media Support.

Hicham Mansouri, an investigative reporter working for AMJI, was sentenced to 10 months in prison on an adultery charge in March that critics say was an attempt to muzzle him.

Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi; editing by Patrick Markey and Andrew Roche