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Zagora : Eight people sentenced to jail for thirst protests

Eight people were sentenced to jail terms on Tuesday in Zagora for participating to «thirst protests». The ruling took part after demonstrations erupted on the 8th of October in the southern city, demanding supplies of fresh drinking water. Details.

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On the 8th of October, Zagora’s inhabitants took the streets to demand supplies of fresh drinking water and protest against the city’s water problem. On the same day, 21 people were arrested, seven of whom were sent to the Ouarzazate Court of Appeal.

The first group of detainees attended a hearing in Zagora. Eight people were sentenced to between two and four months behind bars for «assaulting state employees». Most precisely, three individuals were sentenced to four months in prison, two to three months and three others to only two months.

They were all fined 1,000 dirhams each. These young people were charged with : «participating in organizing this demonstration, insulting and assaulting public officials, aggression and vandalism», defense lawyer, Mohammed Messoudi told Yabiladi on Tuesday.

The detainees are aged between 18 and 25 years old

The hearing took place on Monday, October 30th at 2pm and «it ended at around 2am on the next day», Othman Riskou, president of Moroccan Association for Human Rights’ local office in Zagora (AMDH) declared to Yabiladi. He also added that the young prisoners «are aged between 18 and 25 years old, and most of them are students», denouncing «the severity of the convictions».

The defense lawyer insisted that «the minutes in the pleading contained false information». For his part Rizkou indicated that «the accusations were unfounded».

«Two accused were arrested before making it to the demonstration. They were just walking, heading to a different destination. For example, they were accused of throwing stones. However, for the first time, ten witnesses were heard at the public hearing».

«Severe» and «surprising» convictions

The same account was supported by the defense lawyer. According to Mohammed Messoudi, the witnesses stated that «some detainees were with them on the day of the demonstration, and that they were only heading to a lake and walking around. The police were randomly arresting people on the day of the protests», said the lawyer.

He added : «The convictions pronounced by the court surprised us, especially after the long discussion that took place during the hearing. The only solution we are left with is to appeal». The president of the AMDH-Zagora agreed on the same step as according to him the sentences are «severe» and «surprising».  

«These convictions do not go hand in hand with the demands and needs of the city. People are taking the streets for water because they are thirsty.»

The relatives of the detainees were shocked when the judge's decision was announced. «Some moms were devastated. The parents were very shocked by these decisions,» says Othman Rizkou.

Eight minors arrested on the 8th of October 8 during the protests will have to stand trial on Tuesday. Thursday, seven other people detainees will attend the court of appeal of Ouarzazate.

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