On June 4, on the eve of Eid Al Fitr, King Mohammed VI pardoned 755 people, sentenced by courts of law across Morocco, and either currently incarcerated or serving their sentences outside prison.
Of those pardoned, 60 are Rif Hirak activists who were sentenced following mass protests in 2016 and 2017 in the northern Rif province. Forty-seven are Jerada Hirak activists, who were sentenced following protests in Jerada in western Morocco in 2017.
“In consideration of the family and human circumstances of the people condemned following the events in Al Hoceima and Jerada […], the King has pardoned a number of people who were sentences but did not commit crimes or grave acts during these events,” states an press release from the Ministry of Justice.
The Hirak protests started in 2016, when a fishmonger from Al Hoceima was crushed to death by a rubbish lorry as he tried to protect his fish, which had been confiscated by police.
His death led to a wave of anger, with thousands protesting and accusing authorities of “abuse of power and corruption.” Similarly in Jerada, two deaths in a mining accident catalyzed protests against the government, amidst accusations of neglecting the area.
During the Hirak protests, hundreds were arrested, and many were sentenced to prison time for “conspiracy aiming to undermine state security,” and “participating in unauthorized protests.”
In August 2018, for Eid Al Adha, the King pardoned 188 Rif Hirak activists. However he did not pardon the leaders of the protest, including Nasser Zafzafi, who was sentenced to 20 years in jail. Zefzafi appealed the sentence but his appeal was rejected in April this year, sparking protests across Morocco and overseas.
It is unclear whether Zafzafi is among the Hirak activists pardoned by the King this year.
For Eid Al Fitr, the King has also pardoned people convicted for terrorism and extremism, but who have since participated in a “Moussalaha (reconciliation) program”, and “officially announced their rejection of all forms of extremism and terrorism, as well as their attachment to the Nation and national institutions,” adds the press release.