In a long letter to prime minister Abdelilah Benkirane, journalist Al Lmrabet asked him to intervene in order to get his Moroccan passport and ID-card. According to Lmrabet the Moroccan authorities refuse to grant him the documents. “If you don’t intervene I will be a ‘sans-papier’ in my own country”, Lmrabet wrote. Lmrabet has been on hunger strike since June 24. He tried for months to get his documents in his city of birth Tetouan.
“Morocco is a state of law,” said Mohamed Aujjar, Morocco’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, insisting the journalist had “every right to contest the administrative decision” not to provide him with a certificate needed to renew his passport. “But you don’t get your papers by staging a hunger strike,” he told the French news agency AFP. Aujjar said that if Lmrabet disagreed with the administrative decision he could challenge it, but not in Geneva.
Lmrabet flatly rejected Aujjar’s suggestion to return to Morocco and pursue the case in court, insisting he would then be stuck in the country with no papers and no possibility to work or leave. He is still in front of the UN’s offices in Geneva pursuing his hunger strike. Remy Pagani, one of the five members of Geneva’s Administratice Council, has written a letter to king Mohammed VI insisting that “Ali could obtain his ID-documents as soon as possible and resume his professional activities in his country, the kingdom of Morocco”.
Ambassador Aujjar denied to Moroccan news agency MAP that there was any legal decision to deprive the journalist from his ID documents. Lmrabet simply could not get his residence permit from the authorities in Tetouan because he was not actually living there. “He could have resorted to a legal procedure if there is a conflict between him and the local administration, like any other citizen”, according to Aujjar, who accused Llmrabet to turn a simple administrative dispute in a political and media campaign against Morocco.
Remains the question why the Moroccan authorities permitted this conflict to get out of hand. Llmrabet is no “ordinary citizen” but a journalist with a long record of confrontations with the Moroccan authorities over human rights and media freedom issues. Putting obstacles in Mr Llmrabet’s return to journalistic activity cannot be explained otherwise –in the Moroccan context- than blunt political insensitivity or a clear red line against the freedom of expression of certain “troublesome” critics.