Morocco trials of al-Hirak al-Shaabi activists 'flawed': Amnesty International
Dozens of jailed activists arrested during protests in Morocco's northern Rif region in 2016 and 2017 have been denied their right to a fair trial with some confessing under torture, Amnesty International said Monday.
In June 2018, a Casblanca court sentenced 54 people with ties to the al-Hirak al-Shaabi protest movement to terms of one to 20 years – with Amnesty saying there were "serious flaws" in the process.
"The first trial proceedings resulted in a gross miscarriage of justice," said Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa Director Heba Morayef in a statement, ahead of an appeal hearing set for Monday.
"The Moroccan government used these flawed legal proceedings to punish and silence prominent, peaceful social justice protesters and to intimidate others from speaking out," Morayef added.
The severity of the punishments handed out by the Moroccan court sparked anger and further protests.
Appeals were made to the king forclemency for the activists, journalists and others arrested during the government clampdown, with 11 of the 54 convicted in June receiving a royal pardon in August.
Leader of the Hirak protest movement Nasser Zefzafi - who Amnesty said spent 15 months in solitary confinement - is still detained, while another four who have pending appeals have been provisionally released.
The Hirak movement began in the northern city of al-Hoceima in October 2016 after the death of a fisherman who attempted to rescue his wares from a garbage truck that were confiscated by police.
It spiraled into a wave of protests demanding more development in the neglected Rif region, with demands that the government tackle corruption and unemployment.
Amnesty pointed to several alleged trial violations, including convictions based on "confessions" obtained by torture.
Interrogations and statements signed by defendants were in Arabic, a language many of them do not speak well, it said.
The rights group based its analysis on interviews with six lawyers for both defence and prosecution teams as well as six families of detainees.
Its evaluation also included the prosecutor's argument, the court's judgement and a range of reports.
Amnesty said the court only accepted 12 defence witnesses, refusing testimony from over 50 others.
The cases of the remaining 43 are to be heard by the Casablanca appeal court.