Prominent Saharawi student activists arrested

Two well-known Saharawi student activists were this week arrested in Agadir. A trial is expected to start today.  

Published 29 April 2022

UPDATE, 07.06.2022: After the case was postponed twice, the case against Mohammed and Hassan was finally opened on 16 May, and the verdict was pronounced on 24 May 2022 sentencing Mohammed to one year in prison and Hassan to eight months in prison. In protest of their deplorable conditions in Ait Melloul prison (Agadir) and arbitrary arrest, Mohammed commenced on an open hunger strike on 13 May 2022. As of 7 June 2022, the hunger strike is still ongoing. 

Picture above: Mohammed Layichi (left) and Hassan Alloud (right).

On Monday 25 April 2022, two well-known figures in the Saharawi student movement in the city of Agadir were arrested by officers wearing civilian clothes at the student campus in Agadir.

The two students, Mohammed Layichi and Hassan Alloud, were taken into a civil car and driven to an unknown destination. The two students had been at the campus to prepare for an internal student activity. Witnesses report that the arrest of the two students was violent. 

News was later received that the two students were being held at the central police station of Agadir, and on 27 August, and their arrest was extended with an additional 24 hours. Whilst held at the police station, the two student activists were held isolated, and their families were turned away by the police, not even allowed to bring their sons food. The two students were presented in front of an investigative judge on 28 April who ordered their detention in Ait Melloul prison. The trial against the two students is expected to commence already today, on 29 April. 

According to friends and family, the trumped-up reason used for the arrest of the two activists is possession of weapons, as neither of the students have or had any weapons in their possession. The sole reason for their arrest remains their student activism as Saharawi students, friends and family asserts. 

Mohammed Layichi, born in 1998, is a prominent figure in the Saharawi student movement and a public spokesperson who is known for his support for the right to self-determination, his tireless efforts for justice for Abdel Rahim Badri, a young student who was killed in 2018, and his support and following of the trials of the so-called 'Student Group'. Similar to Mohammed, Hassan Alloud, born in 1993, is also a well-known Saharawi student activist connected to the student movement in Agadir, having also advocated for years for justice for Badri and the release of the imprisoned students. 

Immediately after the arrest of the two students, the three faculties of Ibn Zohr in Agadir witnessed evening protests and political discussion sessions, where the Sahrawi students and their supporters denounced what they call “the repressive and vengeful act prepared in advance against their two comrades”. Protests have been held every night since in the city of Agadir by the student activists, calling for the release of their friends. 

The same day of the arrest, news was published in the Moroccan media of the arrest of the two student activists. Articles published by Moroccan media contained pictures of Mohammed whilst held under arrest, believed to have been taken by the police holding him under detention, intended to defame him and portray him as a criminal. 

According to the students of Agadir, the defamation campaign with articles published on news pages linked to the Moroccan government and King, proves that the arrest of Mohammed and Hassan was pre-planned by the police and intelligence forces, aimed at silencing the voices of the students. Similar propaganda campaigns have also been witnessed in the cases of the Gdeim Izik prisoners and the so-called Student Group who also faced trumped up charges in response to their human rights and student activism. 

Since no public universities exist in the occupied territories of Western Sahara; Saharawis wishing to study, have to travel to the bigger cities within the Kingdom of Morocco. When living in Morocco as students, Saharawi students organize themselves in informal student unions and groups and often organize protests and demonstrations, both at the campus of the university and in the occupied territories, where they aim to raise awareness of the harassment towards Saharawi students and Saharawi political prisoners, and to advocate in favour of the right to self-determination for the Saharawi people. In response to their activism, five students known as the “Student Group” remain imprisoned in Moroccan jails despite their detention having been found arbitrary by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in a decision of 2020. 

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