Moroccans Handed Prison Terms for Unauthorized Demonstrations
Five members of the February 20 Movement have been sentenced to jail for eight to ten months by a Moroccan court. The decision came after the group hosted an unauthorized demonstration. Human rights activists in the country estimate that nearly 70 members of February 20 are also in prison. A lawyer for the group said, “it’s a political verdict that tallies with the repressive strategy towards the February 20 Movement. We will appeal this shameful judgement.”
As in neighboring countries, several hundred Moroccans gathered on September 12 to protest a film which insulted the Prophet Muhammad. The protesters convened in front of the U.S. embassy in Casablanca despite a heavy police presence. The rally remained non-violent, but included the chant “Death to Obama.”
Meanwhile, the President of Western Sahara Mohammed Abdelaziz has called upon the U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to pressure Moroccan leaders regarding Saharawi political prisoners. Moroccan authorities in the disputed territories have moved to try 23 of the prisoners in military courts. President Adelaziz lamented that “these serious developments demonstrate clear and blatant disregard by the Moroccan government to the international legitimacy and the values and ideals of humanity.”
Finally, the State Department has announced that it will launch the U.S.-Morocco Strategic Dialogue on September 13. The Dialogue is to be a long-term initiative aimed at strengthening the ties between the two countries, which will allow them to work cooperatively on a range of issues in the Middle East and North Africa.