Morocco denies death penalty for Rif activists

Hirak leader Nasser Zefzafi is still being tried

Rabat – Moroccan King’s Public Prosecutor to the Court of Appeal in Casablanca denied activists of the social movement in the northern Rif region would be given death sentences following rumours in Moroccan media and on social networks.
The neglected northern Rif region of Morocco has been shaken by weeks of protests and violence with demonstrators demanding jobs, development and an end to corruption.
The prosecutor said in a statement published by the official MAP news agency that the case has not yet progressed past the investigation stage for a punishment to be issued.
“The case’s file is still in the hands of the investigating judge, to whom the right is given only to issue a transfer order [to another court], to cease litigation, or declare [the court’s] lack of jurisdiction,” wrote the prosecutor.
“Punishments can only be applied during sentencing, not [by] the investigating judge,” he added.
The Rif protests erupted last October after a fishmonger was crushed to death in a rubbish truck as he tried to retrieve swordfish confiscated for being caught out of season.
Demands for justice later snowballed into a wider social movement named Al-Hirak al-Shaabi, calling for jobs, development and an end to graft.
Leaders of the grassroots movement were arrested at the end of May and the July 20 demonstration was called by Hirak supporters to demand their release.
At the end of July, King Mohammed VI pardoned more than 1,000 detainees, including 40 people arrested for taking part in the Rif protests.
However, more than 150 Rif activists, including protest leader Nasser Zefzafi, remain behind bars.