‘Free human rights defenders’ call

5 November 2010 - 10:51am
Press release

NEWS PEG: Friday, 5 November 2010 — Casablanca Death threat looms over Western Sahara human rights defenders


Western Sahara activists face treason charges

The anti-poverty charity War on Want is calling for the immediate release of human rights defenders who go on trial in the Moroccan city Casablanca today for alleged treason over their support for people demanding self-determination for Western Sahara.

Three people – Brahim Dahane, Ali Salem Tamek and Ahmad Anasiri – have been detained since their arrest last October when they returned to Casablanca from a humanitiarian visit to Saharawi refugee camps in Algeria.

Tens of thousands of people are forced to live in the camps after Morocco annexed Western Sahara in 1976.

The charity is supporting the three along with film maker Ken Loach, MP Jeremy Corbyn, vice-chair of the Parliamentary Human Rights Group, and three other MPs, Green party leader Caroline Lucas, Katy Clark and Paul Flynn.

Mr Dahane is president of the Sahrawi Association of Victims of Grave Violations of Human Rights and Mr Tamek is vice-president of the Sahrawi Collective of Human Rights Defenders.

Mr Anasiri is general secretary of the Sahrawi Committee for the Defence of Human Rights in Smara.

Four others on the trip - Yadih Ettarrouzi, Rachid Sghayar, Saleh Lebayhi and Idagia Lachgarewere - were also held, then released following a 41-day hunger strike, but face the same charge of threatening Moroccan security, which carries the death penalty.

War on Want says the defendants have committed no crime and should be freed now.

It contrasts Morocco's signature to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights with its failure to respect the right of people to defend civil and political rights without fear of reprisal.

Graciela Romero, international programmes director at War on Want, said: "It is a blatant violation of international human rights law that Morocco has kept these defenders locked up for over a year and will now try them on false charges which threaten death. The Rabat government must release them at once."

CONTACT: Paul Collins, War on Want media office (+44) (0)20 7324 5054 or (+44) (0)7983 550728

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