Eight men convicted of undermining the monarchy in Morocco last year have been released after they were pardoned by the King on Friday, 4 April. Nine others facing judicial proceedings based on the same charges also benefited from the Royal pardon.
All of those pardoned were members of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights. Seven of them were arrested on 1 may 2007 for chanting slogans critical of the monarchy, five in Lksar Elkbir and two in Agadir. They were sentenced to between three and five years in prison.
Ten others were arrested in later demonstrations in solidarity with the detainees, among them 73-year-old Mohamed Bougrine. He was also sentenced to prison and his health was said to deteriorate while in detention.
The monarchy remains a taboo subject in Morocco. Any criticism of the king can be considered to undermine the monarchy. In recent years, several people, including journalists and political activists, have been prosecuted and in some cases, sentenced to prison terms for peacefully expressing views critical of the monarchy.
Amnesty International, who adopted the men as prisoners of conscience, imprisoned solely for peacefully exercising their rights, welcomed their release.
However, the organization voiced concern that Moroccan legislation can be used to criminalise the peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.
Amnesty International is urging the Moroccan authorities to bring Moroccan legislation into line with their obligations under Article 19 and 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.