Urgent Update: We have received information that Rachid Nini has started a sit-in, on 13 June 2011, in protest of his prison conditions. He is demanding to have access to the mosque to pray, to be permitted to have pens and paper and to be able to call his family. He also complained about the constant searches prison authorities conduct of his personal belongings.
Rachid Nini, a journalist and the editor-in-chief of the el-Massaa’ daily, was sentenced on 9 June 2011 to one year in prison for “undermining a judicial decision”, “attempting to influence the judiciary”, and “reporting on untrue criminal offences” by the Court of First Instance in Ain S’ba’ in Casablanca. Amnesty International believes that he is being targeted for his peaceful criticism of the Moroccan authorities, and considers him a prisoner of conscience.
“My father died, our family is composed of seven brothers and sisters and my mother. Since my father died, Rachid replaced him; he was taking care of us and supporting us. We hope that your messages will help us to get our brother back to us” - Rachid’s sister, Noura told Amnesty International.
Rachid Nini is a 40-year-old journalist and father of an 11 year-old girl. He was detained on 28 April 2011 following the publication of several articles criticizing the Moroccan security services’ abuses in the context of countering terrorism, including prison sentences handed down after unfair trials against Islamists.
Rachid Nini’s lawyers challenged that he has been prosecuted for his writing under the Penal Code rather than the Press Code and that he be released on bail. Their demands were declined by the court; they consequently withdrew from the court hearings, on 17 May. He is currently being held in Okasha prison in Casablanca.
Rachid Nini has repeatedly called for increased political freedom and has written about corruption among government officials. As well as corruption, he denounced the secret detention centre Témara. Moroccan authorities showed little tolerance to calls for the closure of the centre, and consistently deny that abuses take place there.
The Moroccan authorities have been under pressure to respond to demands for political and human rights reform, following continuing demonstrations since 20 February inspired by the events in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.
In March a number of reforms were announced, among them the establishment of a new National Human Rights Council. King Mohammed VI also promised a plan of constitutional reform, as well as giving up some of some his political power.