Human Rights groups urge Morocco to free Rif Hirak protest leader Nasser Zefzafi

Human Rights groups urge Morocco to free Rif Hirak protest leader Nasser Zefzafi
To mark International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, human rights groups have issued a statement calling for the immediate release of Nasser Zefzafi, leader of the Rif Hirak protest movement.
2 min read
11 August, 2023
Zefzafi still has thousands of supporters among the Riffian people [Getty]

Five human rights groups have called for the release of Nasser Zefzafi, the jailed chief of the "Hirak" protest movement that rocked Morocco's northern Rif region in 2016 and 2017.

The groups issued their statement to mark the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, which began on August 9.

In a press release, the groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch called for "the immediate and unconditional release of Nasser Zefzafi from his unjust detention in Morocco" where he is serving a 20-year prison sentence.

The statement is also signed by the Center for Victims of Torture, Freedom House and POMED (Project on Middle East Democracy).

It said the health of the jailed 43-year-old "continues to deteriorate in prison as authorities prevent him from receiving sufficient medical treatment".

Zefzafi was a prominent leader of Hirak, formed following protests in the northern port of Al-Hoceima in October 2016 after a fishmonger was crushed to death in a rubbish truck as he tried to retrieve a swordfish confiscated for being caught out of season.

Al-Hoceima is in the troubled Rif, a predominantly Berber region that was gripped by months of unrest after the incident.

Hundreds of Hirak activists were later imprisoned, but most have now served their sentences or been pardoned.

Zefzafi is one of just eight Hirak members still in prison.

Amnesty said in December 2018 that the trial of Hirak members exposed "serious flaws", with some confessing under torture.

Political parties and rights activists in Morocco have also criticised the severity of the sentences imposed on the activists and regularly call for the release of the last Hirak detainees.

The authorities in Morocco have always said that the judicial process in the country complies with international standards.