Since this piece was published, Dr Monjib has been released from jail, but forbidden to leave the country, pending trial.
Maâti Monjib, a distinguished Moroccan historian and human rights activist, has been on hunger strike since 4 March in al-Arjat prison near Rabat. Monjib was seized last December by plainclothes security officers in a restaurant in Rabat, brought before a prosecutor and then an investigating judge, who ordered his detention pending trial. On 27 January he received a one-year prison sentence for ‘fraud’ and ‘treason’.
Last month, after 29 years of diplomatic stalemate, Western Sahara returned to war. The territory is a former Spanish colony; Morocco and Mauritania invaded as Spain withdrew in 1975. The Polisario Front, an independence movement made up of the territory’s indigenous Sahrawi people, took up arms. A messy and inconclusive guerrilla war dragged on until a 1991 ceasefire, by which point Mauritania had relinquished its claims on the territory, and Morocco had built a sand berm – at 1700 miles, arguably the longest military barrier in the world – to separate the roughly three-quarters of the territory that it occupied from the remaining quarter or so controlled by Polisario, which governs in exile from a series of refugee camps in Algeria’s Tindouf Province.
On 27 February, the European Court of Justice ruled that the EU-Morocco Fisheries Partnership Agreement cannot apply to the territory of Western Sahara. Morocco alleges that the former Spanish colony, on the Atlantic coast between Morocco and Mauritania, is part of its integral territory. The view is not officially shared by any UN member state, and the UN considers Western Sahara a Non-Self-Governing Territory.