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Amnesty International calls on Morocco to rescind conviction of activist in Hirak Rif

Protesters stage a demonstration in Rabat, Morocco on 16 July 2017 [Jalal Morchidi/Anadolu Agency]
Protesters stage a demonstration in solidarity with Hirak Rif in Rabat, Morocco on 16 July 2017 [Jalal Morchidi/Anadolu Agency]

Amnesty International has called on the Moroccan authorities to rescind the conviction of Nawal Ben Aissa, an activist in Hirak Rif.

This came in the organisation's statement that Anadolu Agency obtained a copy of it. Morocco has not yet issued any immediate official reaction regarding the statement.

The Moroccan Court of First Instance in the city of Al-Hoceima (North) had sentenced Ben Aissa in February to 10 months suspended imprisonment and a 500 Moroccan dirhams fine ($ 50) on charges of "organising an unauthorised demonstration, insulting public security officers during their performance of their duties, and incitement to committing crimes or misdemeanours."

It is expected that the Moroccan Court of First Instance would issue on Thursday the ruling against Ben Aissa.

Read: Morocco: Hirak Rif detainees go on hunger strike

Amnesty International said that the Moroccan activist was subjected to what it called "repeated intimidation and harassment because of defending the rights of people in the countryside."

According to the statement, Heba Morayef, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Director said: "Joining peaceful protests and demanding respect for human rights are not crimes."

"Nawal Ben Aissa's conviction is a clear attempt to intimidate her into silence and criminalise her activism and role in the Hirak Rif movement. The authorities must immediately rescind the conviction and drop all charges against her," added Heba.

On 26 June, the Court of First Instance of Casablanca has issued from one to 20 years imprisonment sentences against a number of the protest leaders and activists in Hirak Rif.

In response to journalists' questions about the conviction of Hirak Rif leaders with imprisonment sentences described as "cruel," Mustapha El Khalfi, spokesperson for the Moroccan government, said in previous statements that "the judiciary is independent, and we cannot interfere in its rulings, as it knows well the case's details."

Read: 6 dead after train derails in Morocco

Since October 2016 and over ten months, the city of Al-Hoceima and some towns and villages in the Rif region (north) have witnessed protests demanding "the development of the region and ending its marginalisation," according to the protesters.

At the end of last October, the Moroccan monarch had dismissed four ministers from their positions because of disorders (negligence) in the implementation of a development program in the Rif region.

In August, the Moroccan monarch had ordered the exemption of 889 prisoners and sentenced people, including more than 100 detainees on the grounds of Hirak Rif in the north of the country.

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