RABAT, April 10 (Reuters) – Twenty-seven Moroccan political prisoners
are in deteriorating health as they stage hunger strikes over alleged
violations including solitary confinement and torture, the country’s
main rights groups said on Tuesday.

The prisoners are protesting against “long detentions without
trial…repeated provocations accompanied by threats and beatings and
inhumane treatment including solitary confinement,” the Network of
Human Rights Organizations said.

They also want investigation of torture they said they had suffered,
and the right to medical treatment, it added.

The network, which groups 18 independent Moroccan right groups,
published a list of 27 political prisoners, whom it said had been on
hunger strike for several weeks or more after they were sentenced to
jail or arrested for involvement in protests.

“Their health has been deteriorating while officials ignore their
cases,” it said.

Justice and Public Freedoms Minister Mustafa Ramid and government
spokesman Mustafa El-Khalfi could not immediately be reached for
comment. The government says it is committed to upholding human
rights, including for inmates.

Morocco has managed to avoid some of the “Arab Spring” turmoil after
King Mohammed offered to trim his powers to contain mass pro-democracy
protests last year. But regular protests continue to erupt against
unemployment, poverty and official corruption. Some have turned

Among the hunger strikers is Azzedine Erroussi, a left-wing activist
and university student, who has been fasting since Dec. 12 in a prison
in the impoverished northern city of Taza. Authorities moved him in
late March to a hospital in Rabat.

Erroussi was sentenced to five months in prison for “insulting,
abducting and beating” a police officer after he was arrested in early
December during protests by students in Taza university. His
supporters say the charges were concocted to silence a leading figure
of the student protest movement.

The network also cited Abdeljalil Akadil who was among 10 people
sentenced in January to four years in prison for arson of public
property and attacking the police during riots over unemployment in
the Atlantic coast city of Safi in August.

Akadil, a human rights activist, has been on hunger strike since Feb.
20, 2012, the network said. The country’s main human rights group AMDH
says he had been tortured for three days after his arrest to force him
to admit to involvement in the riots.

Abdessamad Haidour has been on hunger strike since March 12 after he
was sentenced to three years in jail for slandering King Mohammed in
an Internet video.

The network urged Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane to “quickly
respond to the legitimate demands of the detainees on hunger strike”
and “protect the right to life enshrined in international and human
rights conventions”.

“We have witnessed in recent months a rise in the number of hunger
strikers inside Moroccan prisons,” said Abdelilah Benabdeslam of the
main AMDH right group, which is part of the network. “(This) is due to
our law enforcement policy that too often sees imprisonment as a
solution to every problem”.

Hafid Benhachem, head of Morocco’s Penitentiary Authority, could not
be reached for comment.