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Prison chief sacked after Zefzafi complains of torture in Moroccan prison1 minute read

Zefzafi was convicted on charges of threatening state security last year

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Zefzafi complains of torture in Moroccan prison, prison chief sacked

Morocco’s penitentiary administration Friday sacked a prison director after Nasser Zefzafi, the detained leader of a protest movement, complained of being “tortured” and “raped” in jail.

Nasser Zefzafi — who earlier this year lost an appeal against a 20-year prison term — said in a taped message that he “suffered the worst forms of torture” following his arrest in June 2017.

In the message from jail shared widely on social media this week, Zefzafi said he was “beaten up… raped with a stick… forced to undress”.

His father, Ahmed Zefzafi told AFP the audiotape was authentic.

On Thursday the penitentiary administration said it had opened an “administrative investigation” into the details on the audiotape.

And on Friday it announced the sacking of the director of the Fez prison where Zefzafi is detained.

Zefzafi was convicted on charges of threatening state security in June last year, along with three other members of the Hirak protest movement which rocked Morocco in 2016 and 2017.

Their sentences were upheld in April by a court of appeal in Casablanca. 

In December last year, Amnesty International said the trial of Hirak members exposed “serious flaws” with some confessing under torture.

The protests took hold in the country’s marginalised Rif region in October 2016.

The social unrest was sparked by the death of a fisherman and escalated into a wave of demonstrations demanding more development in the neglected region and railing against corruption and unemployment.

Authorities accused the activists of having separatist aims.

Zefzafi, who is now 40, emerged as the face of the movement as a result of his rallying speeches, accusing authorities of corruption.

In August he and five other activists issued a statement accusing authorities of torturing them during investigations.

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Health

Algeria insists on hydroxychloroquine for Covid-19 treatment

WHO said on Monday it had temporarily suspended clinical trials of hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment for coronavirus.

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Algeria has disclosed plans to continue the use of hydroxychloroquine in tackling the coronavirus, despite the discouragement by the World Health Organization that has suspended clinical trials of such treatments following a study which showed that the drug caused more harm than good.

“We’ve treated thousands of cases with this medicine, very successfully so far,” said Mohamed Bekkat, a member of the scientific committee on the North African country’s Covid-19 outbreak. 

“We haven’t noted any undesirable reactions,” he said.

Bekkat, who is also head of the Order of Algerian Doctors, said the country had not registered any deaths caused by hydroxychloroquine.

“For confirmed cases, we use hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin. Then there is a whole protocol for serious cases,” a health ministry official said on Monday.

Bekkat’s comments came days after medical journal The Lancet published a study of nearly 100,000 coronavirus patients, showing no benefit in those treated with the drug, which is normally used against arthritis.

The study found that administering the medicine or, separately, the related anti-malarial chloroquine, actually increased Covid-19 patients’ risk of dying.

The World Health Organization said on Monday it had temporarily suspended clinical trials of hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment for coronavirus, following the Lancet study.

Bekkat argued that the Lancet study had led to “confusion” as it “seems to concern serious cases in which hydroxychloroquine is of no help”.

“There is evidence that the use of chloroquine by some Arab and African countries has proven to be effective when used early,” he explained.  

Public figures including US President Donald Trump have backed the drug as a virus treatment, prompting governments to bulk buy — despite several studies showing it to be ineffective and even increasing COVID-19 hospital deaths.

Algeria’s coronavirus outbreak is one of the worst in Africa, with a total of 8,503 cases and 609 deaths officially recorded since February 25.

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North Africa

Libyan Coast Guard rescues 315 illegal migrants

At least five boats carrying nearly 400 people attempted to flee Libya during the previous 48 hours, IOM said earlier Monday.

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FILE PHOTO: This picture taken on October 1, 2019 shows rescued migrants sitting on a pier next to a Libyan coast guard ship in the town of Khoms, a town 120 kilometres (75 miles) east of the capital. Mahmud TURKIA / AFP

The Libyan Coast Guard has rescued 315 illegal migrants, bringing them back to the capital Tripoli, the United Nations Higher Commission of Refugees (UNHCR) has said.

“Today at dawn, Libyan Coast Guard returned to Tripoli 315 refugees and migrants after being intercepted/rescued at sea aboard several boats,” the UNHCR tweeted Monday.

“Two people lost their lives and their bodies were recovered. UNHCR partner IRC (International Rescue Committee) was on site to provide urgent medical care to all survivors,” the UNHCR said.

At least five boats carrying nearly 400 people attempted to flee Libya during the previous 48 hours, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said earlier Monday.

The IOM reiterated call for ending returns of rescued migrants to Libya and establishing a safe alternative disembarkation mechanism.

After the fall of the late leader Gaddafi’s government in 2011, Libya became a preferred point of departure for thousands of illegal immigrants hoping to cross the Mediterranean towards European shores.

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Business News

Algeria to invest $3 billion in solar power, free up gas export

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The Coronavirus pandemic is proving to be the motivator for more economic diversification. An example of this, is Algeria’s plan to invest further in renewable energy and generate more electricity. The country intends to invest at least $3 billion dollars in this endeavor.

These new photovoltaic solar plants will generate a combined production capacity of 4000 mega watts (MW). The electricity will be consumed locally and excesses sold. The move will enable more gas to be sold externally.

Recently, Algeria lost its main gas supply destination due to cheaper alternatives with more supplies.

Currently, gas is used in generating about 98% of total electricity production in Algeria. But recent development has been encouraging Algiers to increase its exports of gas and crude oil, which are the main sources of Algeria’s revenue. Solar generated electricity makes up the remaining 2%.

Algeria’s Prime Minister, Abdelaziz Djerrad’s office announced the development on its website following a meeting of the government.

“In addition to meeting national demand for energy and preserving our fossil resources, this project will allow us to position ourselves on the international market,” it said in a statement.

It gave no details on where the electricity might be sold abroad or how much the proposed plants would contribute to domestic supply.

The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent global movement restriction has influenced the drastic drop in crude oil and gas sales affecting countries like Algeria. The past two weeks has seen a gradual rise in price but Algeria like many other OPEC members have announced plans to seek foreign loans in 2020 for the first time in years to fund what they called “strategic projects”.

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