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10.04.2019 Morocco

HRW warns Morocco over 'shocking' verdicts against activists

AFP
Africa Supporters of Morocco's al-Hirak al-Shaabi movement hold placards and shout slogans calling for the release of the movement's members outside the Casablanca Court of Appeals during their trial on April 5, 2019.  By FADEL SENNA (AFP/File)
APR 10, 2019 MOROCCO
Supporters of Morocco's al-Hirak al-Shaabi movement hold placards and shout slogans calling for the release of the movement's members outside the Casablanca Court of Appeals during their trial on April 5, 2019. By FADEL SENNA (AFP/File)

Human Rights Watch on Wednesday warned Rabat over what it called the "shocking" Moroccan court of appeal rulings against 42 leaders of a protest movement.

"The shocking appeals verdict upholding up to 20-year sentences... failed to deal with the evidence of torture and forced confessions," said Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW's Middle East and North Africa director.

"Morocco's doubling down on vengeance against activists will come back to bite, as popular outrage to government abuses spreads across the region," Whitson cautioned in a statement issued by the New York-based rights watchdog.

The leaders of the Hirak protest movement which rocked northern Morocco in 2016 and 2017 had their sentences upheld by an appeal court in the city of Casablanca last Friday.

The Al-Hirak al-Shaabi, or "Popular Movement", protests took hold of the country's Rif region in October 2016.

The social unrest was sparked by the death of a fisherman and spiralled into a wave of demonstrations demanding more development in the neglected region.

Authorities accused the activists of having separatist aims.

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