Morocco king pardons over a thousand prisoners, including Rif protesters

Morocco king pardons over a thousand prisoners, including Rif protesters
2 min read
30 July, 2017
Protest group leader and 175 others remain in detention after mass pardon is granted for protesters who were 'not implicated in serious acts'.
A lawyer for the detained protesters has said the pardon is not enough [Getty]

Morocco's King Mohammed VI pardoned over a thousand people on Saturday, including mant detained for participating in protests in the volatile northern Rif region, the country's justice ministry announced.

The pardon, which was announced just before the monarch gave a speech marking 18 years on the throne, will apply to a total of 1,178 people.

The ministry said pardons were given to individuals "who have not committed crimes and who are not implicated in serious acts ... bearing in mind their family and humanitarian conditions".

For months, the predominantly Berber Rif region has experienced waves of unrest over government neglect of the region.

Dissatisfaction with the government boiled over last October, when a fishmonger was crushed to death in a rubbish truck trying to salvage a swordfish that had been confiscated for being caught out of season.

The Hirak al-Shaabi movement grew from protests that sprung up after the death, calling for jobs, investment in th region and an end to corruption.

Despite the king's gesture, some supporters of those detained see it as falling short.

Abdessadek Al-Bouchtaoui, a lawyer for detained protesters, said the move is "a positive step but it does not go far enough, because we are calling for the release of everyone held".

Nasser Zefzafi, the movement's leader, as well as 175 others are still being held in detention.

Prior to Saturday's mass pardon, Morocco's government had sent ministers to the region and promised major investment. Police were withdrawn from certain areas in a bid to cool tensions.