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Western Sahara: Torture and solitary confinement of human rights defender Mr Yahya Mohamed el Hafed Aaza
Front Line is deeply concerned following reports of the torture and solitary confinement of human rights defender, Mr Yahya Mohamed el Hafed Aaza, who is currently being detained in Ayat-Melol prison. Yahya Mohamed el Hafed Aaza is a member of the Tan-Tan Branch of the Association Marocaine des Droits de l'Homme – AMDH (Moroccan Association of Human Rights), as well as a member of the constitutive assembly of the Collectif des Défenseurs Sahraouis des Droits de l'Homme - CODESA (Collective of Sahrawi Human Rights defenders).
On 3 April 2009, Yahya Mohamed el Hafed Aaza and nine other Sahrawi prisoners were reportedly subjected to torture in Enzkan prison. They were later transferred to Ayat-Melol prison where Yahya Mohamed el Hafed Aaza has been placed in solitary confinement without blankets, clothes and sufficient water and sugar which he requires as he is on hunger strike.
Yahya Mohamed el Hafed Aaza suffers from rheumatism, asthma, anemia and other illnesses for which he spent three months in hospital while in Enzkan prison. The following day, 4 April 2009, his wife and father were refused admission to the prison and asked to bring authorization from the Directorate of Prisons in Rabat (700kms from Ayat-Melol).
On 29 February 2008, Yahya Mohamed el Hafed Aaza was arrested while working in his shop in Tan-Tan, South Morocco. It was believed that the arrest was related to peaceful pro-independence demonstrations that took place two days earlier in Tan-Tan. In September 2008, he was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment in what was reported to be an unfair trial. Yahya Mohamed el Hafed Aaza has previously been the subject of intimidation. In 2004 and 2006 he was arrested by the Moroccan Military Intelligence, and in 2005 he was reportedly kidnapped by the Moroccan Military Intelligence for two weeks, during which time he was subjected to torture.
Front Line believes the torture and continued detention of Yahya Mohamed el Hafed Aaza is directly related to his work in the defence of human rights. Front Line is seriously concerned for the physical and psychological integrity of this human rights defender.
Front Line previously issued an urgent appeal concerning the arbitrary arrest of Yahya Mohamed el Hafed Aaza on 4 March 2008.