Morocco jails activists for up to 20 years

Morocco jails activists for up to 20 years

Morocco jails activists for up to 20 years

Leaders of a Moroccan protest movement were sentenced to up to 20 years in prison late on June 26 over their roles in demonstrations that rocked the north of the country in 2016.

The figurehead of the Al-Hirak al-Shaabi, or “Popular Movement,” Nasser Zefzafi, as well as other leaders Nabil Ahmjiq, Ouassim Boustati and Samir Ighid were jailed for “plotting to undermine the security of the state” over protests in the Rif region, which demanded jobs, development and an end to graft.

A total of 53 people were sentenced on Tuesday after a near nine-month trial, with penalties ranging from a year in prison and a fine of 5,000 dirhams (around 450 euros, $520) to 20 years in jail, according to the Casablanca Court of Appeal judgment, which was read out in the absence of the defendants.

Journalist Hamid el Mahdaoui, who faces a charge of “not denouncing” attempts to undermine state security and was tried alongside the Hirak protesters, will have a separate hearing today.

Family and friends of the accused cried out in shock when the heaviest sentences were read out in the court, according to an AFP journalist at the scene.

A few demonstrators yelled slogans like “Long live the Rif” or “We are Zefzafi.”

Defense lawyers, who refused to plead in solidarity with the demonstrators citing “judicial bias”, intend to appeal after consulting with their clients.

“These are very harsh sentences. The state has failed the test of respecting human rights and essential freedoms, just like the independence of the judiciary,” said one of the defence lawyers, Souad Brahma.