Morocco’s King Mohammad VI has pardoned dozens of people who were arrested in recent protests in the Rif region and blamed the failure of local officials for public anger.
Speaking in his first public address since the start of protests in October over injustice, corruption and underdevelopment in the region, the King said:
If the king of Morocco is not convinced by the way political activity is conducted and if he does not trust a number of politicians, what are the citizens left with?
“To all those concerned I say: ‘Enough is enough!’ Fear God in what you are perpetrating against your homeland. Either carry out your duties fully or withdraw from public life.”
Before his speech, the Justice Ministry announced 1,178 prisoners were being pardoned to mark the occasion of the 18th anniversary of the King’s ascension to the throne. Those pardoned included 58 members of the protest group, the “popular movement”.
Silya Ziani was the only leader of the movement who was pardoned with others, including Nasser Zefzafi, still detained in Casablanca.
“I am happy with my freedom, but I am waiting to hear the news of the freedom of all my comrades from the Hirak,” Ziani told local reporters on Saturday.
Protests erupted in October in the Rif region and around Al-Hoceima following the death of fishmonger Mouhcine Fikri who was crushed in a garbage truck after his produce was confiscated by authorities.
The government’s spokesperson did not clarify what actions may be taken but one government official presented the speech as a “direct conversation with the people” over the slow progress in development projects.
“The King has put his foot down, whoever doesn’t do their work should leave their place for those who want to work,” the government official told Reuters.
Around 176 protesters are currently being detained following the ongoing demonstrations. “We can’t speak about significant developments because the main demands of Hirak remain unaddressed, including the release and dismissal of charges for all the members of Hirak,” Secretary-General of the Moroccan Human Rights Association, Taib Madmad said, explaining that the royal pardon is not enough to quell the unrest.
Al-Hoceima was only mentioned once in the King’s speech and only referenced to praise the actions of security forces.