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Morocco activists jailed over demo granted bail

18 June 2014, 06:55

Rabat - Nine activists from Morocco's February 20 pro-reform movement jailed last month for violence against police during a demonstration were granted bail at their appeals hearing on Tuesday, judicial sources said.

A court in Casablanca had on 22 May sentenced five activists to one year each and jailed the other four for six months.

They were arrested on 6 April during a mass rally in Casablanca called by trade unions in protest at the austerity policies of Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane, and attended by some 10 000 people.

Human rights group say they were arrested for having chanted anti-regime slogans, while a police source said five members of the security forces were attacked and injured.

"It's very good news, for the families but also for Morocco, because we are worried about the current evolution of human rights," their lawyer Mohammed Messaoudi told AFP.

"Our happiness will be complete if Lhaqed is also freed this afternoon," he added, referring to a Moroccan rapper whose real name is Mouad Belghawat.

Social and political reforms

Lhaqed, an outspoken voice of the February 20 movement, is on trial on charges of drunkenness in public, assaulting a policeman and selling football tickets on the black market. He insists he is innocent.

Arrested last month at a football match and already denied bail, the rapper is due to appear at a new hearing later on Tuesday.

He is being held in Casablanca's Oukacha prison, were he already spent a year for defaming the police in his songs, before being released in March 2013.

The February 20 movement was born during the Arab Spring of 2011, demanding sweeping social and political reforms in Morocco.

Its street protests now rarely attract more than a few hundred, with police repression and regional turmoil dampening demand for change.

The authorities say most of its demands were met in a new constitution adopted that year at King Mohamed VI's initiative, but many of the charter's previsions have yet to be translated into law.



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