A female striking teacher has been singled out by a Moroccan court and sentenced to a prison term after what appears to be a revenge reaction by the state, after accusing police officers of molesting her while in custody.
A Moroccan court sentenced teacher Nezha Majdi to three months in jail on May 23rd for “insulting public authorities with the intent to harm their honour” after she claimed to be a victim of sexual assault at a police station.
“The state’s intention is to suppress our struggle and prevent other teachers from defending their rights. We strongly condemn these mock trials,” stated a spokesperson from the Moroccan Coordination of Contractual Teachers.
Widespread condemnation also could be heart by rights groups in the West.
Amnesty International weighed in calling on the Moroccan authorities to “ immediately drop the charges against 33 teachers who were arbitrarily arrested for having participated in peaceful demonstrations demanding better working conditions ”.
“ It is outrageous that these teachers are being prosecuted and possibly imprisoned when all they did was legitimately demand better working conditions and employment rights ” , deplored Amna Guellali, deputy regional director for North Africa and the Middle East at Amnesty International. “ The Covid-19 pandemic should not be used as an excuse to arbitrarily arrest peaceful protesters. By unjustly prosecuting peaceful protesters, the Moroccan authorities are flouting their international obligations under which they are required to defend and protect people’s rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly ,” she said at the time.
The trial of the teachers dates back to April 2021 when more than forty teachers were arrested during a large demonstration in Rabat against the contractual employment system in Morocco and the challenging working conditions faced by teachers in the country which limits them to earning modest salaries.
On May 23rd the court of appeal in Rabat upheld a three-month sentence against Nezha Majdi, a teacher who has been on trial since last year.
Nezha was tried alongside nineteen other male contractual teachers, but she was the only one to receive a prison sentence.
The other nineteen contractual teachers were given a suspended sentence of two months in prison for “violating the state of health emergency” and “insulting security forces” during protests.
According to the Moroccan penal code, a suspended sentence means the convict will not serve the prison term unless they commit a crime punishable by imprisonment within the next five years.
Despite the ongoing Covid-19 emergency at the time, authorities cracked down on the protests for violating the ban on gatherings.
After her release from the police station, Majdi told the media that she had been subjected to sexual assault by members of the police during the 48 hours she spent in five different police stations after being violently arrested during the protests.
No public investigation was launched into her case.
Amnesty International has criticized the trial as politically motivated.
Contractual teachers have been protesting their precarious working conditions for over four years, demanding permanent jobs and improved civil service benefits.
They have also stated that they face financial penalties ranging from $70 to $150 for each protest or strike they participate in. Moroccan contractual teachers receive a monthly salary of 5,000 MAD ($500).
Before being elected in October 2021, Morocco’s new prime minister, Aziz Akhannouch, pledged to prioritize education reforms.