RABAT — Morocco’s King Mohammed VI has pardoned a total of 188 people linked to the "Hirak" protest movement on the occasion of Islam’s Eid al-Adha religious feast, the National Council on Human Rights said on Tuesday.
The council initially reported that royal pardons had been granted to 11 activists serving sentences of two to three years in prison for their part in the Al-Hirak al-Shaabi, or "Popular Movement" whose protests rocked the northern Rif region in 2016-17.
The other pardons concern people sentenced in connection with the demonstrations in the disadvantaged region, according to the Moroccan press.
It was not immediately possible to get confirmation from the justice ministry, which published the list of people granted royal pardons.
The social unrest linked to Hirak began in October 2016 after the death of a fisherman and spiralled into a wave of protests demanding more development in the neglected Rif region and railing against corruption and unemployment.
The pardoned Hirak detainees were immediately released and the rights council has begun coordinating with local authorities in various cities to prepare for their return home, according to a council official.
A Casablanca court on June 26 sentenced 53 Hirak members to prison terms ranging from one year to 20 years. The severity of the punishment sparked anger and protests, along with appeals for royal clemency.
The total number of convictions tied to Hirak are not known, but the protests have led to more than 400 arrests, the rights council says. — AFP