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Morocco activist sentenced to 5 years for criticising normalisation with Israel 

April 11, 2024 at 2:11 pm

Israeli and Moroccan flags are pictured during an official ceremony in Israel’s Mediterranean coastal city of Tel Aviv, on 13 September, 2022 [JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images]

Abdul Rahman Zankad, a Moroccan activist, has been sentenced to five years in prison for criticising Morocco’s decision to normalise relations with Israel. The activist, a member of Morocco’s Al Adl Wal Ihsane, was arrested last month after posting on Facebook about the occupation state’s war on Gaza and Rabat’s decision to establish diplomatic ties with Tel Aviv.

On Monday a court found him guilty of insulting a constitutional institution and incitement, and he was also fined 50,000 Moroccan dirhams ($5,000).

In a statement, the banned, but tolerated association said his sentence “only serves to solidify the certainty that we are in a state riddled by authoritarianism and tyranny.”

“We condemn this unjust ruling in the strongest terms. It is a continuation of the unjust rulings targeting opponents from Al Adl Wal Ihsane, journalists, and leaders of the Rif Movement,” it added, referencing a 2016 protest movement whose leaders were later sentenced and imprisoned.

The group has also condemned the prosecutions of other opponents of normalisation, highlighting cases of individuals who were sentenced for criticising the monarchy and organising unauthorized demonstrations.

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The civil liberty advocacy group organising the legal defence of protesters called the charges baseless and stated that the proceedings violated Zankad’s right to a fair trial.

Tens of thousands of protesters across the political spectrum have taken to the streets in Morocco to denounce Israel and express support for Palestine. The protesters have also criticised Israel’s allies, including US, and demanded the government to “overturn normalisation.”

Morocco established ties with Israel in 2020 as part of the US-brokered Abraham Accords, leading to both the US and Israel recognising Morocco’s claim over the disputed Western Sahara. Morocco joined other Arab states, Bahrain, the UAE and Sudan in forming diplomatic relations with the occupation state.

Morocco’s constitution generally allows for freedom of expression, but it is illegal to criticise the monarchy or King Mohammed VI, and those who do can face prosecution. Human rights associations have raised concerns about a rise in prosecutions stemming from online posts in recent years. The sentencing of Zankad is the latest case of restrictions on freedom of expression in the North African country.

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