Rachid Sghir, a member of the Committee Action against Torture, was arrested along with six other human rights defenders on 8th October 2009 following a visit to the Saharawi refugee camps in Algeria. The seven are awaiting a military tribunal on the charge of treason. If found guilty Sghir and his colleagues could face the death penalty.
Days after giving an secret interview to a BBC camera crew in Western Sahara, Sghir was was detained by the Moroccan police, questioned about his activities including the interview with the BBC and severely beaten. In the BBC interview he had criticised the unlawful 35 year Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara and the resulting human rights abuses suffered by Saharawi people.
Some months after his BBC interview, Sghir had travelled with six other human rights activists to visit the refugee camps at Tindouf. They were arrested on their return and have been imprisoned ever since. On 18th March they launched a hunger strike.
In a statement on 18th March the hunger strikers state:
“Our detention has been condemned by governments and parliaments around the world as well as human rights organisations, trade unions and civil society groups. We are being persecuted for exercising our right to express political opinion and engage in legitimate activities to protect the human the rights of our people. In protest at our detention we are today beginning an open hunger strike in order to expedite our claim to a fair trial and our release without condition. We call on democratic forces in the world to support our fight for our release and that of all Saharawi political prisoners held in Moroccan jails.
Speaking on the BBC website presenter Simon Reeve, who interviewed Sghir said:
"It's a beautiful area of the world, but also home to a great deal of injustice. It was humbling to meet Sghir and other democracy campaigners and human rights activists who put their freedom on the line daily to battle for rights that we in Britain can take for granted.”
Stefan Simanowitz, chair of the Free Western Sahara Network said:
The BBC documentary shown last night highlights the reality for the Saharawi people, forced to live either under brutal occupation or in desolate refugee camps for over three decades. When brave people like Rachid Sghir speak out they are thrown into prison. We demand that he and the six other human rights activists imprisoned in Rabat, either be released immediately and without condition or at very least receive a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal as required under Article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
For more information visit Free Western Sahara Network
To see the BBC interview visit - http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00n8vtk
To see the BBC news story visit - http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/8575448.stm
The prisoners Sale prison Rabat are:
1) Brahim Dahane, President of the Saharawi Association of Victims of Serious Violations Committed by Morocco (ASVDH);
2) Ali Salem Tamek , First Vice President of the Collective of Saharawi Human Rights Defenders (CODESA) and member of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH);
3) Ahmad Anasiri: General Secretary of the Saharawi Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Smara and President of AMDH Smara Chapter;
4) Ms. Dagja Lachgar, Member of the Executive Office of ASVDH;
5) Yahdih Ettarrouzi, Member of AMDH Laayounne Chapter;
6) Saleh Lebayhi: President of the Forum for Protection of Saharawi Children and member of the Laayoune Chapter of CODESA and AMDH; and
7) Rachid Sghayar, Member of Committee Action against Torture
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