Mohamed VI Uses Royal Pardons To Try To Reach An Agreement With The Rif Protest Movement

King Mohamed VI pardoned 26 Riffians on July 29 for the feast of the Throne, including one of the ideologues of the Hirak movement, professor and intellectual Mohamed El Majjaoui. It was expected that this Thursday, on the occasion of the independence festival and with the speech scheduled in Al Hoceima, the monarch would forgive the other twenty who remain in prison, but the negotiation has not come to fruition.

To receive the royal pardon, the prisoners have to sign a document in accordance with some rules and, for now, part of the Hirak leadership has not received an offer or has not accepted it and remains isolated and on hunger strike.

“We were all surprised by the royal pardon. We did not expect it. I think that the Moroccan State wants to finish this file related to the detainees of the Al Hoceima protests because it constitutes a human rights crisis,” confesses El Mortada Lamrachen, one of the 26 Riff del Hirak pardoned by King Mohamed VI in July on the occasion of the 21st anniversary of his accession to the throne.

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This young Riff tries to regain his life in Al Hoceima with his wife and young daughter, whom he hardly knows after being imprisoned in 2017 for supporting the protest movement, which claims social and economic improvements for the Rif since the tragic death of the fish trader Mochine Fikri on October 28, 2016.

However, 22 Riffian activists are still in prison, including three from the leadership. Therefore, in an interview with elDiario.es, El Mortada confesses: “We are currently waiting impatiently for the release of all political prisoners, since we are one body and their presence behind bars makes no sense. We hope for the good in the next days, especially because the visits of the relatives of the detainees have been interrupted due to the pandemic and this aggravates their psychological condition and increases the suffering of our families. ”

The king allowed his son, the heir Moulay Hassan, to arrive a day before in the area in a gesture of confidence towards the Riffians. And considering that the security of the palace is in the hands of personnel from the region, many interpret that it is the moment of reconciliation between Rabat and the Rif. “The king’s idea is to reach an agreement with them so that they do not create problems again. A priority issue because the Netherlands is blocking Morocco. The Rif issue has to be fixed for international issues, in addition to the millionaire investments of countries foreigners planned in the area “, explains a Moroccan military source.

Thus, it is expected that this signed document, which has not yet transpired, will release the rest of the detainees on the occasion of one of the royal pardons provided for the independence and youth festival, on August 20 and 21. respectively. Rabii Ablak, one of the most combative activists who supported up to 38 strikes inside the prison, in an interview with Nador City television two weeks after his release, corroborated the existence of “an agreement” that for the time being will be kept. silence, but he warned that in the future he will speak of “torture”, of the “ordeal of his arrest” and that “he is alive thanks to those who supported him.”

However, the father of leader Nasser Zafzafi is not optimistic. In conversation with elDiario.es, Ahmed Zafzafi details that “since last Friday they have been isolated.” “They have no communication with anyone or with each other.” And he also anticipates that “this week they have started a hunger strike.” That is why he has lost all communication with his son, with whom he normally talks for five minutes four days a week.

Nasser Zafzafi is in Fez prison with Nabil Ahamjik and in Tangier only Mohamed Jelloul remains, who seems to have not reached an agreement with the National Center for Human Rights (CNDH), in charge of negotiating clemency with the prisoners, to different from the rest of the 15 released in that jail.

The prisoners carried out a “secret” negotiation and arrived at a road map, of which at the moment there are no clues, which in principle all except Mohamed Jelloul signed. This intended to add two points to the basic demands of the Hirak, to investigate the death of the five young people burned in a bank teller on February 20, 2011 during the Arab Spring and to investigate the death of Imad Attabi, who lost his life in a hospital following the July 20, 2017 demonstration when the security forces used tear gas.

Among the things agreed upon, it seems that the aza symbol of the Amazigh culture – represented with three fingers up – has disappeared. In the images of the trip from the prisons to Al Hoceima, the pardoned men raised their fists.

“All the mediation initiatives previously undertaken by civil society bodies and organizations were unsuccessful, but in the end we were released for no apparent reason,” maintains El Mortada, who at that point speaks that there was no negotiation.

The first 40 Riffians came out at the 2017 Throne Party, including the only woman arrested, Silya Ziani. A year later, on August 21, 2018 on the occasion of the Passover of the Sacrifice, known as the feast of the lamb, the Alawite king pardoned 188 prisoners of the Hirak from various prisons in the country, including 10 of those forgiven were from the dome of the movement, in the prison of Casablanca. Finally, on June 4, 2019, 60 Riffian prisoners received the royal pardon, but the prisoners sentenced to 20 years who had seen their sentence ratified in April were not in that group.

For El Mortada “nothing has changed in Al Hoceima, unemployment and poverty have increased dramatically, clandestine immigration has doubled and addiction to local drugs such as hashish has turned into an addiction to heroin and hard drugs. we are approaching the abyss and the rescue plan needs to build a new and modern system. We have witnessed the collapse of trust in the state and its institutions. ”

The municipality of Alhucemas has obtained an economic subsidy of approximately 112,300 euros within the framework of the Support Program for the Improvement of the Performance of the Municipalities of Morocco. “This donation is a motivation to make more efforts at the service of the city and its inhabitants with a view to improving the other indicators in the coming years,” they told the national press from the locality.

This program is a project planned for a period of five years (2019-2023) in collaboration between the General Directorate of Local Authorities (DGCL), the World Bank and the French Development Agency (AFD). Its objective is to strengthen good governance in municipalities in order to improve services to citizens and companies. It is directed to 103 municipalities that represent more than 85% of the urban population of the country and almost 55% of its total population.

Another of the demands that the activists claimed is a university to avoid having to travel to Martil, Fez or Oujda, with at least five hours in transport. The authorities anticipate that it is planned to build a university district in Ait Kamra with a university residence, restaurant, sports hall, library and other facilities.

In any case, there is still a long way to go to fulfill the Hirak’s demands, including the construction of hospitals, factories that create jobs and the demilitarization of the region. The authorities are working to free the twenty Riffian detainees, serving, in part, human rights organizations, which are pressing for an end to political detentions (aggravated in the last decade).

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