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Thursday, 11 January, 2001, 01:32 GMT
Moroccan editor on hunger strike
Casablanca
Casablanca conference: Billed as a first for the Arab world
By Nick Pelham in Casablanca

The editor of the Moroccan newspaper Le Journal has begun a hunger strike in protest at the banning of his newspaper last month.

Aboubakr Jamai made the announcement while speaking from the podium at the congress of the International Federation of Human Rights, a Paris-based watchdog, with affiliates in 89 countries.

The federation is billing the conference, which is being held in the Moroccan city of Casablanca, as the first of its kind in the Arab world.

Morocco Parliament
The government said the newspapers threatened the country's institutions
Hundreds of delegates greeted the statement with applause - many of them were either former or current political exiles who had fled repression in the Arab world to Europe.

One of them was the Moroccan Prime Minister, Abderrahman Youssoufi.

Restrictions

He spent his exile in Paris as a human rights lawyer but now stands accused of overseeing the same policies he protested against in the past.

Last month he issued the ban on three weekly newspapers, including Mr Jamai's, which were alleged to have theatened the stability of the state.

Days later the authorities rounded up hundreds of Islamists and leftists who had tried to hold a rally to mark United Nations Human Rights Day.

On the first day of the conference the delegates tasted the restrictions at first hand.

The authorities refused permission to stage a rally outside a former secret detention centre.

The organisers have faced criticism for going ahead with the conference.

Former political detainees say the kingdom's human rights record does not merit the tribute.

But two years ago the authorities banned a conference which the London based watchdog Amnesty International was proposing to hold in the kingdom.

And for now Morocco is still celebrating the freedom of its human rights discourse, if not its human rights.

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See also:

03 Dec 00 | Africa
Fury at Morocco press ban
16 Oct 00 | Country profiles
Country profile: Morocco
09 Aug 00 | African
Is Monarchy good news for Africa?
30 Jul 00 | Media reports
King Mohammed - one year on
19 Apr 00 | Media reports
Morocco's TV clampdown
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