Open Letter to the King of Morocco in support of Ali Lmrabet
UPDATE: 29 July 2015 – Moroccan authorities have agreed to renew Ali Lmrabet’s passport immediately. Lmrabet has ended his hunger strike and is currently in hospital for routine health checks and would like to thank the PEN community for their support.
PEN International joined 161 organisations, writers, journalists, human rights defenders, lawyers, and politicians in calling on the king of Morocco to stop the administrative harassment of Ali Lmrabet. The satirical journalist has been on hunger strike outside the U.N.’s Geneva offices since June 24, according to news reports.
Lmrabet is protesting the Moroccan government’s refusal to renew his passport and residency papers, which he says is a move to prevent him from teaming up with his old cartoonist colleagues to resume publishing a satirical magazine, Newsweek reported.
In 2005, Lmrabet was banned from practicing journalism for 10 years after referring in an article to the Saharawi people in the Algerian city of Tindouf as refugees, contradicting the Moroccan government’s position that they were prisoners of the Polisario Front–a movement fighting for the independence of the Western Sahara. The journalism ban expired in April this year.
Lmrabet has been harassed repeatedly for his criticism of the Moroccan government. In May 2003, he was jailed for “insulting the king” and “challenging the territorial integrity of the state” when his two weeklies, the now-shuttered French-language Demain and the Arabic Douman, published articles and cartoons that lampooned the monarchy, as well as an interview with an opponent of the king who called for self-determination for the people of the Western Sahara. Lmrabet served nearly nine months of his three-year sentence before being pardoned and released in January 2004.
Read the full letter to King Mohammed VI here.