Mass protesters took to the streets of the Moroccan capital, Rabat, on Sunday April 21st, to urge the release of political activists who were detained over leading protests in the Rif region in late 2016 and 2017. The protests decried the crippling economy and social troubles, Reuters reported.
Appeals to the Casablanca Court have upheld the 20-year prison sentences handed out, just two weeks ago, to Nasser Zefzafi, Nabil Ahamjik, Ouassim Boustati and Samir Ighid. They were found guilty of undermining public order and threatening national unity. Another 35 activists were jailed for between two and 15 years, and one received a one-year suspended sentence.
Carrying flags of the Amazigh community and pictures of jailed activists, participants in the march chanted, “Freedom, dignity and social justice”, “Long live the Rif”, and “The people want immediate release of Rif detainees”.
Marches across Rabat have unified families of Rif activists, human rights organisations, the Amazigh movement, leftist political parties and the banned Islamist movement Al-Adl wal-Ihsan.
The protesters also called for the release of journalist, Hamid El Mahdaoui, who covered the Rif protests and received a three-year jail sentence. He was charged with not reporting a crime against state security after receiving a phone call from a Moroccan living abroad saying he would introduce arms to Morocco.
The Rif demonstrations, along with those in the mining town of Jerada in early 2018, have been the most intense since unrest in 2011 prompted King Mohammed VI to devolve some of his powers to an elected parliament.
The protests in the predominantly Amazigh-speaking Rif erupted after the death of fishmonger, Mouhcine Fikri, in October 2016. He was crushed inside a rubbish truck trying to recover fish confiscated by police.