A ruling by the Court of Appeal in Casablanca against the leaders of what is known as 'Hirak Rif' have become the source of great resentment in Moroccan political and legal circles.
On Tuesday, the Court convicted Nasser Zafzafi, rhe field commander of 'Hirak Rif', and three other activists for "destabilizing the internal security of the Kingdom," sentencing them to 20 years in prison.It also sentenced 50 other activists to 10 years imprisonment.
Zafzafi played down the importance of the rulings in his statements, which were reported by his father Ahmed Zafzafi today and published by the Moroccan newspaper Lakom. The 'Hirak Rif' leader said that he is "very patriotic and will continue fighting for the homeland." Calls to reconsider these rulings have reiterated from across the political, official and human rights spectrum.
In the first government response to the harsh rulings against 'Hirak Rif' leaders, the Minister of State for Human Rights, Mustapha Ramid, said that he hopes more just judgements in the appeals phase would be issued, which would "establish new reconciliation with the region and establish confidence in the judiciary."
Ramid told local Moroccan media outlets today that: "the rulings issued in the case of Al-Hoceima events have not received general approval. But, they remain judgments issued by the judiciary, which cannot be disputed in its rulings, unless by those who have studied the file documents, followed the case directly and listened to the discussions and pleadings."
Ramid went on: "The case will be discussed again before the Appeals Chamber, which is composed of five judges who are supposed to have competence and experience that goes beyond that of their First Instance Court colleagues. I hope that more just judgements will be issued on this case, which will establish trust in the judiciary and set up a new reconciliation with the residents of the region."
Al Adl Wal Ihsanne association, an opposition movement, called on the authorities to "immediately" release those arrested in the north of the kingdom.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, Al Adl Wal Ihsanne described the sentences as "cruel" and said it had received the news with "deep pain and resentment." The statement pointed out that "the demands of the people of the Rif are the demands of all Moroccans, which are legitimate social and economic demands. Their protests were peaceful and civilized as reflected in the forms and the content of their slogans and messages."
For its part, "The Democratic Left Federation (FGD) called for the need for a comprehensive political detente that responds to urgent public expectations and for the involvement of actors and community forces involved in the issues to find the necessary solutions. The federation called too for the lauch of political and institutional reform workshops that should no longer be postponed.
The Democratic Left Federation stressed that the protest movements reflect the growing public awareness and expansion of its circle. It insisted that instead of the wise, courageous and responsive interactions that the state should adopt while dealing with them, they are sometimes met with a purely oppressive approach and sometimes with ignorance and disregard.