Morocco king pardons 188 people linked to Hirak protests

Morocco's King Mohammed VI. (REUTERS)
Updated 23 August 2018

Morocco king pardons 188 people linked to Hirak protests

  • The social unrest linked to Hirak began in October 2016 after the death of a fisherman and spiralled into a wave of protests demanding more development in the neglected Rif region and railing against corruption and unemployment

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI has pardoned a total of 188 people linked to the “Hirak” protest movement on the occasion of Eid Al-Adha, the National Council on Human Rights said on Tuesday.
The council initially reported that royal pardons had been granted to 11 activists serving sentences of two to three years in prison for their part in the Al-Hirak Al-Shaabi, or “Popular Movement” whose protests rocked the northern Rif region in 2016-2017.
The other pardons concern people sentenced in connection with the demonstrations in the region, according to the Moroccan press.
It was not immediately possible to get confirmation from the Justice Ministry, which published the list of people granted royal pardons.
The social unrest linked to Hirak began in October 2016 after the death of a fisherman and spiralled into a wave of protests demanding more development in the neglected Rif region and railing against corruption and unemployment.
The pardoned Hirak detainees were immediately released and the rights council has begun coordinating with local authorities in various cities to prepare for their return home, according to a council official.
A Casablanca court on June 26 sentenced 53 Hirak members to prison terms ranging from one year to 20 years. The movement’s leader Nasser Zafzafi, sentenced with three companions to 20 years in prison for threatening the security of the state, was not among those on the pardon list.
Nor was journalist Hamid el Mahdaoui, sentenced to three years for covering the events.
The defendants in the Casablanca trial have appealed and the hearing is scheduled for October.
The 2016 protests began when fisherman Mouhcine Fikri was crushed to death in a rubbish truck, while he was apparently trying to retrieve swordfish seized by authorities as it was caught out of season.
Subsequent unrest in the Rif region focused on social issues as demonstrators demanded jobs and development.
The king also pardoned 522 people for Youth Day on Tuesday which is also the birthday of the monarch, who turned 55.
On Monday, the anniversary of “the revolution of the king and the people,” he had also granted 428 pardons.


Turkey’s rulers plot law changes to block breakaway parties’ power grab

Updated 28 May 2020

Turkey’s rulers plot law changes to block breakaway parties’ power grab

  • President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP is working on a plan to stop parliamentary deputies from transferring to other parties

ANKARA: Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is looking at ways to change electoral laws in order to block challenges to power from two new breakaway political parties.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP and its nationalist coalition partner the MHP are working on a plan to stop parliamentary deputies from transferring to other parties — a move that has fueled rumors of an imminent snap election in the country.

Under Turkish election rules, political parties must settle their organization procedures in at least half of the nation’s cities and hold their first convention six months ahead of an election date.

Any political party with 20 lawmakers in Turkey’s parliament is entitled to take part in elections and be eligible for financial aid from the treasury for the electoral process.

The leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Kemal Kilicdaroglu, has hinted at the possibility of transferring some CHP lawmakers to the newly founded parties to secure their participation in elections.

Turkey’s ex-premier, Ahmet Davutoglu, and the country’s former economy czar, Ali Babacan, both longtime allies of Erdogan, recently left the AKP to establish their own opposition groups, and have come under pressure from the AKP and MHP to leave their parties out of the race.

Babacan has been critical of Erdogan’s move away from a parliamentary system of governance in Turkey to one providing the president with wide-ranging powers without any strong checks and balances.

“The AKP is abolishing what it built with its own hands. The reputation and the economy of the country is in ruins. The number of competent people has declined in the ruling party. Decisions are being taken without consultations and inside a family,” Babacan said in a recent interview.

He also claimed that AKP officials were competing against each other for personal financial gain.

Babacan, a founding member of the AKP, was highly respected among foreign investors during his time running the economy. He resigned from the party last year over “deep differences” to set up his DEVA grouping on March 9 with a diverse team of former AKP officials and liberal figures.

Berk Esen, a political analyst from Ankara’s Bilkent University, believes Babacan’s recent statements have angered Erdogan.

“As a technocrat, Babacan gains respect from secular circles as well as the international community, which Erdogan clearly lacks. Despite being in office for 13 years, Babacan has not been tainted by corruption allegations and is known as the chief architect of Turkey’s rapid economic growth during the AKP’s first two terms,” he told Arab News.

“The legislation that the AKP-MHP coalition is working on may prevent deputy transfer only in case early elections are scheduled for the fall. Otherwise, the newly established parties will most likely build their organizations across the country and become viable for elections by summer, if not the spring of 2021.”

If Davutoglu and Babacan were successful in capturing disillusioned voters, they could prevent the ruling coalition getting the 51 percent of votes needed to secure a parliamentary majority.