Amnesty International today urged the Moroccan authorities to immediately release dozens of activists who took part in Rif protests describing them as "prisoners of conscience".
A statement released by the international human rights organisation was released to coincide with the start of a new trial for more than 50 detainees in the Casablanca Court of Appeal.
The crackdown on Rif protesters in recent months has been relentless. The authorities must free Nasser Zefzafi and others detained for protesting peacefully or covering demonstrations online. They are prisoners of conscience
The London-based organisation added that since May 2017, Moroccan security forces have arrested "hundreds of protestors" including teenagers and journalists during protests that were generally peaceful.
"There are currently at least 410 detainees", many of whom have been convicted and some have been sentenced to prison terms of up to 20 years.
Hirak Rif leaders have even been accused of "harming state security" which could lead to life terms.
According to Amnesty, protest leader Nasser Zefzafi has been held in "solitary confinement for 176 days".
Over 150 protesters, including members of the Hirak movement have been arrested for taking part in weekly demonstrations calling on the government to better develop the Rif region and for greater employment opportunities.
Many of those arrested since protests broke out in the Rif region in October last year following the death of a fishmonger in Al-Hoceima have claimed to have been tortured whilst detained and had their confessions extracted under force.