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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Un exilé politique veut prendre le roi aux mots

by Bruno Vincens

Morocco: Political Exile Wants to Take King at His Word.

Translated Tuesday 29 March 2011, by Gene Zbikowski and reviewed by Henry Crapo

Hamid Jaïmi, the director of the Arabic-language weekly, Kawalis Rif, fled the country to escape imprisonment. The journalist is a political refugee in France and wants to benefit from the announced amnesty measures in order to go home and be reunited with his family.

Toulouse, from our correspondent.

Hamid Jaïmi was stabbed in the forehead and the back in a bookshop in Nador, in Morocco, in 2000. He lost blood and went into a coma for 39 days. The attempted murder was followed by another: a bullet whistled past his ears in a café in Melilla, a Spanish enclave. The two attacks were preceded by a series of assaults. He was shadowed and his phone was wiretapped.

Hamid Naïmi had been the director of the Arabic-language weekly Kawalis Rif since 1998. In the paper, he denounced corruption and the embezzlement of public monies by high civil servants and by those close to government authority. His weekly also militated for autonomy for the Rif region. In just one week, the journalist was found guilty of libel 40 times! He was sentenced to three years in prison and a fine amounting to 40,000 euros.

His appeal was rejected in 2005, and before being imprisoned Hamid Naïmi and his wife, also a journalist, fled Morocco. The young man settled in the Toulouse suburbs and had no problem obtaining refugee status in France: the attacks against him were well known and both Amnesty International and Reporters sans frontières were following his case. He also obtained French citizenship and welfare benefits as a handicapped adult. He has been doing a little work for the Arabic-language media.

But Hamid Naïmi wants to return to Morocco to see his mother again and to let her get to know her two grandchildren, who were born in France: He wants to benefit from King Mohamed VI’s amnesty, which allows political exiles to return to Morocco.

He almost returned last year: Negotiations were begun with government representatives and the police, first in a Toulouse café, and later at the consulate. Hamid Naïmi seemed to have obtained guarantees for his security. His departure was scheduled for July 12. But on July 11 he was informed that it was all off.

The political refugee wrote to the Sharifian sovereign asking to benefit from the amnesty, but there was no response. Under the pressure of the mobilization in favor of social justice and democracy, Mohamed VI was led to make concessions last week.

This is an additional reason for hope for Hamid Naïmi. He asks: “Do I have the right to live in Morocco? Am I Moroccan or not?”

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