Morocco: Human Rights Activist Jailed for Whistleblowing

 Chakib Al KhayariA human rights activist critical of Moroccan drug policies was sentenced on Wednesday to three years in prison.  Chakib Al Khayari's sentence was called “a stark reminder of Morocco's tenuous and uneven progress on human rights” by Human Rights Watch.  As President of the Association for Human Rights in the Rif, Al Khayari has long spoken out against the government's alleged complicity in the drug trade, in which drugs are smuggled from northern Morocco to Europe and beyond.  Many people in the Rif region of Morocco have long made a livelihood of cultivating kif, or cannabis.  Officially, Morocco has attempted to rid the country of drugs entirely (partly to comply with EU demands), however, the debate has recently shifted to include the prospects of hemp cultivation for non-drug purposes, as well as the somewhat unlikely possibility of decriminalization (it is worth noting that very few Moroccans are convicted for minor posession, although foreigners are often made examples of).

Al Khayari was convicted of “gravely insulting state institutions,” and of minor violations of regulations governing foreign bank accounts and currency.

A campaign for Al Khayari is underway, with a Twitter account (@freechakib) chronicling activist efforts for Chakib's release, a video on YouTube, and a Web site [Arabic].

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