Moroccans hold posters bearing portraits of convicted activists during a demonstration against the court of appeal rulings on Al-Hirak al-Shaabi or "Popular Movement" activists, in the capital Rabat on April 21, 2019. (Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

Thousands Protest in Morocco Demanding Release of Jailed Activists

Thousands of Moroccans demonstrated in the capital Rabat demanding the release of jailed activists who in 2016-17 led the so-called Hirak Rif anti-poverty demonstrations. Two weeks ago, a court of appeals upheld the 20-year prison sentences of then-protest leaders Nasser Zefzafi, Nabil Ahamjik, Ouassim Boustati and Samir Ighid. Charges against them included undermining public order and threatening national unity. Another 35 activists were given prison terms ranging from 2-15 years. The Rif, a region in northern Morocco that has struggled economically, in 2016 erupted in mass unrest after fishmonger Mouhcine Fikri was crushed to death inside a garbage truck while trying to recover product confiscated by police. The current protests in Morocco come on the backdrop of similar movements in Algeria and Sudan that succeeded in deposing longtime ruling strongmen.

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