Moroccan officials said on Tuesday 28 July that satirist Ali Lmrabet’s passport would be renewed immediately. Lmrabet had been holding a hunger strike in front of the UN’s Geneva offices since 24 June because of refusals to renew his identity documents.
“The Moroccan authorities have publicly committed to renew his passport immediately, and not put obstacles to do the same with their identity. We hope that the authorities keep their word,” Lmrabet’s partner Laura Feliu wrote in an email to Index on Censorship.
Lmrabet called off his hunger strike and was admitted to hospital in Geneva for a checkup, according to Feliu.
In a period spanning over a decade, Lmrabet, who was the editor of two satirical publications, was continuously targeted by Moroccan authorities. In 2003, he was jailed for reporting on personal and financial affairs of Morocco’s King Mohammed VI. His magazine Demain was banned. Though initially handed down a three-year sentence, Lmrabet was released after six months. But his troubles were far from from over: in 2005, he was banned from practising journalism in his home country for ten years, over comments made about the dispute in Western Sahara between Morocco and the Algerian-backed Polisario Front.
As his ban expired in April this year, he returned to Morocco with the aim of relaunching Demain. But there he was denied a residency permit, without which he is unable to set up the magazine. In a further complication, he also needs the residence permit to renew his passport. When this expired on 24 June, Lmrabet, who was in Geneva to participate in a session of the UN Human Rights Council, decided to start a hunger strike.