The release of Mustafa Hormatallah, a Moroccan editor at the independent weekly Al-Watan Al An, prompted a memorable scene on July 25 as he exited Akacha Prison in Casablanca, Morocco's most populous and business-oriented city.
Scores of well-wishers including relatives, friends, and representatives of the of the National Syndicate of the Moroccan Press and human rights groups flocked early that Friday morning to this notorious prison to greet Hormatallah as he took his first steps toward freedom. They gave him a warm welcome after his eight months of captivity for practicing independent journalism. At 9:45 a.m. local time, he emerged from the gate of what he called a "cemetery for the living."
His ordeal began in July
2007 when he and his editor Abderrahim Ariri were arrested and charged with
possessing classified documents obtained through "criminal means." Their arrest
came only a few days after Al-Watan Al An
published in its July 14 edition a story titled "The secret reports behind
In August, a
Although the Moroccan authorities turned a deaf ear to repeated calls to release him, Hormatallah maintains that these calls and "the strong statements" issued by local and international rights groups "had a positive impact on the developments" in the case filed against Al-Watan Al An and provided him with "energy, protection and a zest for living, even behind bars."
"It never occurred to me that my detention would provoke
such a huge campaign of solidarity in
He was adamant that this "huge campaign of solidarity" would
"bear fruits not only in
A rally held on July 28 at the Lawyers Club in
He explained that most inmates in Akacha Prison held independent Moroccan journalists in high esteem and "expressed feelings of genuine respect and solidarity in an unmistakable way." He added that this made him immune to different forms of petty harassment and contributed to shattering his prejudices about his prisoners. It also convinced him of the need to write a book to raise "awareness about the plight [of the prisoners he met] and do them justice."
CPJ noted in a 2007 special
report that press freedom in