Morocco sentences Rif protest leader Nasser Zafzafi to 20 years

Morocco sentences Rif protest leader Nasser Zafzafi to 20 years
Activist Nasser Zafzafi, who led popular protests in the Rif region, was charged with 'threatening national unity' and 'undermining public order'.
2 min read
27 June, 2018
A demonstrator holds a picture of Nasser Zafzafi, leader of the Rif region's protests [Getty]
The leader of popular protests in Morocco over economic and social problems in the country's northern Rif region has been jailed for 20 years for "threatening national unity".

Nasser Zafzafi was arrested in May 2017 and transferred to a prison in Casablanca after organising demonstrations in his hometown of al-Hoceima in what came to be known as "Hirak al-Chaabi" in Arabic or "popular movement".

As part of the same verdict, Nabil Ahmijeq, Wassim El-Boustani and Samir Aghid were also given 20 years in prison, while three others received a 15-year jail sentences, Reuters reported on Wednesday.

At least 32 other activists were sentenced to a variety of jail terms, with six condemned to ten years behind bars.

The verdict "was cruel and retaliatory", Hirak activists lawyer Naima El-Gallaf said on her Facebook page.

"These are unfair sentences," Bouchra Rouis activists lawyer told Reuters, adding that there will be an appeal against the ruling after consultation with the defendants.

On social media, observers said it was "very grim times" for human rights in Morocco.

Another user, Mariam El Maslouhi posted: "No international outrage expected.. "Tolerant" and "modern" #Morocco is too much of a friend to put pressure on."

The protests erupted after the gruesome death of fishmonger Mouhcine Fikri in October 2017, who was crushed inside a rubbish truck trying to recover fish confiscated by police.

The Rif region, an ethnically Berber area, erupted into riots, with protesters demanding jobs, funding for the impoverished area and an end to alleged government corruption.

The al-Hoceima demonstrations - along with the protests that hit the mining town of Jerada in early 2018 - have been the most intense since the 2011 unrest that had prompted King Mohammed VI to devolve some of his powers to an elected parliament.