The Sale Court of Appeals upheld a five-year prison sentence for El Mortada Iamrachen, an imam who wrote favorably about the Hirak movement on Facebook, on charges of “promoting terrorism.”
Responding to the verdict, Amnesty International’s MENA Regional Director Heba Morayef stated: “Today’s verdict is another appalling blow for freedom of expression in Morocco and a blatant miscarriage of justice.”
“Instead of jailing El Mortada Iamrachen in inhuman conditions, Morocco’s authorities must release him and ensure that his conviction on these bogus charges is quashed,” Morayef said. Many Moroccans also expressed shock at the sentence.
Iamrachen had already spent 11 months in solitary detention over two Facebook posts. He was arrested on November 30, 2017 on charges of undermining state security.
In one of his posts dating back to December 2016, Iamrachen allegedly applauded the assassination of Andrei Karlov, the Russian ambassador to Turkey, at an art exhibition in Ankara, Turkey.
Mevluet Mert Altintas, an off-duty Turkish police officer was responsible for the attack.
The Hirak movement began in October 2016 after the death of Mohcine Fikri, a local fishmonger who was crushed to death in a garbage truck while trying to save his goods that had been confiscated by authorities in Al Hoceima.
The incident angered citizens, causing protests across the country, but especially in Al Hoceima province, which condemned Fikri’s death and social disparities in Morocco. Police arrested an estimated 400 activists and protesters involved in the protests in 2016 and 2017.
In June, a court in Casablanca gave sentences ranging from 1 to 20 years for 54 Hirak Rif activists and journalists. Zefzafi and three other activists received 20 years in prison for their participation in “unauthorized” protests.