Rights group presses Morocco on sealing of Islamist homes

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 09, 2013 11:57 AM

RABAT (Reuters) - Morocco should stop "arbitrarily" sealing private homes of Islamists on the grounds that they are used to hold unauthorized meetings, Human Rights Watch said in a letter sent on Tuesday to the interior and justice ministers.

Moroccan authorities have sealed houses belonging to two members of the Islamist main opposition group Justice and Spirituality, including its leader Mohamed Abbadi.

"Houses have been padlocked for seven years, their owners unable to enter or maintain them," the New York-based rights group said.

"The law in many countries lets authorities seize property used in serious crimes but that is hardly the case here."

The authorities sealed several other homes belonging to members of the Islamist movement in recent years but have since restored them to their owners.

The Islamist opposition says King Mohamed and his advisers still wield real power in the North African country despite a series of constitutional reforms since 2011 aimed at stifling Arab Spring protests.

The new constitution guarantees Moroccans' right to property and freedom of association.

A moderate Islamist, Abdelilah Benkirane, currently serves as Morocco's prime minister and he has promised to improve human rights in the kingdom.

But, unlike Benkirane's Justice and Development party (PJD), the opposition Justice and Spirituality, a sect-like group steeped in Morocco's Sufi Islamic tradition, refuses to recognize the king's status as "Commander of the Faithful".

The opposition group is banned from formal politics. It does not say how many Moroccans support it, but diplomats believe it is the only opposition group capable of mass mobilization.

Last month, Human Rights Watch released a 100-page report in which it said Morocco's courts were convicting defendants based on confessions obtained through torture.

(Reporting By Aziz El Yaakoubi, editing by Gareth Jones)