Morocco Cracks Down on Saharawi Citizen, Journalist Ibrahim Amrikli

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Press Release of Nushatta Foundation
Saturday 25th, May 2020

El-Aaiún, occupied Western Sahara

By next September, a trial will be set to begin against the Saharawi citizen and video journalist Ibrahim Amrikli who has been conditionally released on bail of $305.12. Ibrahim Amrikli was arrested and detained after the following trumped-up charges were leveled against him: “insulting” an employee during the exercise of his duties and “breaching the quarantine emergency status.”

Over the course of last Friday, May 15, 2020, four plain-clothes policemen stepped out of a blue, 4×4 Toyota Prado to detain the Saharawi video journalist Ibrahim Amrikli in front of his home while he was on his way to a pharmacy. After his arrest, they confiscated his smartphone.

At the time of the arrest, Mr. Amrikli was abiding by the Moroccan declared “state emergency” for Covid-19 in the Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara since he had in his possession an official document from the Moroccan authorities allowing him to have free restricted movement. He was also taking safety precautions by wearing a face mask and gloves. In spite of these facts, he was violently detained without a warrant, arrested, and taken at 11 PM to the police headquarters located downtown in the city of El Aaiún.

“Four plain-clothes policemen jumped out from their car to furiously detain me,’’ he testified. “I was asking, ‘For what reason am I under such detention and why violently?’ One of them replied to me, ‘Later, you will find out,’” Mr. Amrikli added.

At the police headquarters, the Saharawi video journalist Mr. Amrikli was handcuffed to a chair in an empty locked sealed room and left all by himself from 12:00 PM until 4:00 PM. He was held for 48 hours and eventually coerced by an officer to sign a police custody report. This officer literally told him “You are charged for participation in violent actions against police in early May, in the Mattalah district,” an action which Mr. Amrikli unequivocally denied.

Mr. Amrikli, who had asked to take the Sahur [the meal consumed by Muslims before fasting commences in the early morning], was not allowed to have this pre-fast meal. His family was informed of his detention the following day and was told by police that the crime committed by Brahim Amrikli was Drug Trafficking.

During his two days of incarceration, Mr. Amrikli was placed in a five foot by four foot room along with about twelve other people in custody. All of them had to sleep on unclean and very slim mats in an unsanitary and unhygienic room.

On Saturday morning at 9:00 AM, the video journalist Mr. Ibrahim Amrikli found himself being interrogated by three Moroccan officers, who abused him both physically and mentally. Although he was fasting, Ibrahim had to endure kicks, blows, and spitting as well as being subjected to having his private phone messages and his family and personal photos reviewed during two hours of the interrogation. The main aim of the interrogation was to try to find out WHO is running the Nushatta Foundation that he works for, WHERE do the financial resources of the Nushatta Foundation come from, and WHAT other roles are played by the citizen journalists in the Foundation.

Mr. Ibrahim Amrikli, who is a Saharawi citizen, has, at the age of 23, effectively contributed many video productions to the local media agency the “Nushatta Foundation for Media and Human Rights.” His video journalism contributions highlight the numerous, grave human rights violations perpetrated by the Moroccan police during the past few years against the civilian Sahrawi citizens in El Aaiún, in the occupied region of Western Sahara.

In the totally unsafe environment of occupied Western Sahara where reporting human rights abuses is a violation of the Moroccan unspoken law and is almost impossible as a result of the Moroccan blockade and suppression, the Nushatta Foundation journalists as well as other media groups all over Western Sahara are taking risks just because they shed light on the situation of the longstanding Western Sahara dispute.

It is worth mentioning that since the creation of Nushatta Foundation in 2013 and up until now, all of its member journalists, including the cases of Amjad Al-Laili, Mohamoud Hadi, Muhamed Dadi, Lwali Lahmmad, Embark Fahimi, El Bachir Dkhili, and now Ibrahim Amrikli, have been victimized in one way or another, in terms of police surveillance, defamation, detention, or prohibition of access to education.

Additionally, most of the Saharawi citizen journalists who are affiliated with the local Saharawi media agency the Nushatta Foundation in the Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara have been suffering from increased police surveillance and threats by the Moroccan occupying authorities in recent days.

Therefore, the Nushatta Foundation for Media and Human Rights would like to point out the following to the international public:

– The Nushatta Foundation calls upon Morocco to drop all reprisal charges against Brahim Amrikli and to authorize an immediate investigation into the physical and mental abuse of Mr. Amrikli at the hands of the three police officers.

– The Nushatta Foundation calls upon the UN to fulfill its responsibility to protect Saharawi citizens in general and especially the citizen journalists.

– The Nushatta Foundation urges Morocco to respect press freedom in the Moroccan-occupied territory of Western Sahara.

– Nushatta Foundation considers the arrest of its video journalist as evidence of systematic targeting aimed at its citizen journalists who are reporting what takes place inside Western Sahara.

– The Nushatta Foundation condemns the ongoing surveillance that its staff is subjected to in public places and on the network.

– Moroccan authorities are still attempting to imprison Nushatta Foundation journalists and members in retaliation for their non-violent activities.

– The Nushatta Foundation will not stop reporting human rights abuses taking place in the Moroccan-controlled parts of Western Sahara.

– The Nushatta Foundation calls upon NGOs all over the world to put pressure on Morocco to respect international treaties and human rights charters in the occupied Western Sahara.

In a nutshell, it is very clear that Mr. Ibrahim Amrikli’s police interrogation mainly focused on his activities within the Nushatta Foundation. On one hand, the police’s contradictory and inconsistent allegations indicate that he is somehow charged with DRUG TRAFFICKING, and on the other hand, he is charged with INVOLVEMENT IN VIOLENT ACTIONS, while the official charges are otherwise. These contradictory charges reflect the deliberate intention by the Moroccan occupying authorities to target the Nushatta Foundation journalists who are filling the gap that exists because of the lack of international media reporters and media outlets in Western Sahara, a region considered by Reporters Without Borders as a black hole.