November 18, 2010 / 2:51 PM / 8 years ago

Moroccan dissident Abraham Serfaty dies at 84

RABAT (Reuters) - Abraham Serfaty, a Moroccan dissident who was imprisoned and exiled by French colonial rulers and again by Morocco’s independent government for plotting against the state, died on Thursday aged 84.

Serfaty, one of a tiny minority of Jews in predominantly Muslim Morocco, joined the Communist Party as a young man and spent most of his life defying the authorities.

“A Jewish personality like Serfaty was heartily embraced by the Moroccan society as a Moroccan, Arab, democratic and progressive militant,” Abdelhamid Amine, vice president of the independent Moroccan Association of Human Rights, told Reuters.

“Serfaty had suffered much from brutal torture later in the 1960s and in the 1970s but he was strong and defied his tormenters under arrest and during trial,” said Amine, who spent time in prison with Serfaty.

Serfaty, who died from an unspecified illness, was first exiled to France by French colonial authorities in 1952 for his role as a nationalist activist. He returned home in 1956, when Morocco won independence.

But he was imprisoned again in the 1970s for opposing Morocco’s King Hassan II, during whose reign the government killed protesters in the streets and jailed and tortured dissidents.

Another spell of imprisonment followed for his role as top leader of the leftist Illal Amam (Forward) opposition group. His friends said during this period he was tortured. The Rabat government then forced him into exile in France in 1991.

He returned home 10 years later after the reform-minded King Mohamed VI succeeded his father on the throne and promised to end rights abuses. Since then, Serfaty had lived with his wife Christine in Marrakesh.

They fell in love after she helped him evade police arrest for a time in the 1970s and they were later married in a Jewish ceremony at the Kenitra high security prison, where he was serving a sentence.

Morocco’s Jewish population is estimated at about 5,000, down from around half a million at the end of World War Two.

Reporting by Lamine Ghanmi

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