October 25, 2019 / 8:10 PM / a month ago

Moroccan activist on hunger strike admitted to prison clinic - lawyer, family say

RABAT (Reuters) - An activist jailed in 2017 after protests in northern Morocco has been admitted to a prison clinic in Tangier after a seven-week hunger strike, his brother and lawyer said on Friday.

Rabii Ablaq was sentenced in June 2018 to five years on charges of “spreading fake news” and “reporting as a journalist without a permit,” following the protests in late 2016 over economic and social problems in the northern Rif region.

“He was admitted yesterday night to the prison’s clinic after his health deteriorated and couldn’t even walk when the lawyer came to visit him this morning,” his brother Abdellatif told Reuters, urging an immediate intervention to save his life.

His lawyer Souad Brahma said Ablaq had lost significant weight and was “unable to stand.”

Morocco’s prison administration was not immediately available for comment.

The administration said in a statement this week that Ablaq had never told them that he was on a hunger strike and that his daily activities show “his health condition is normal.”

Ablaq is refusing to eat because of the conditions of his detention and demands to be released, said Aziz Ghali, head of rights group AMDH.

The prison administration did not allow an AMDH doctor to visit Ablaq, he said.

At the time of the protests, Ablaq was writing for the Badil news website, whose manager Hamid Mahdaoui was also sentenced in June 2018 to three years in prison on charges including “not reporting a crime against state security.”

Ablaq’s case drew support from about 30 rights groups in Morocco whose members staged a sit-in last Monday to demand immediate intervention to save his life. They also called for the release of Rif detainees, who were given sentences ranging from one year to 20 years on charges including threatening national unity.

Rif protests and unrest in the mining town of Jerada in early 2018 were the largest in Morocco since the Arab Spring protests in 2011 that led to constitutional reform.

Rights activists are planning sit-ins in some Moroccan cities on Monday to commemorate three years since the Rif protests and demand the release of detainees.

Reporting by Ahmed Eljechtimi; editing by Grant McCool

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