A Moroccan court has convicted 18 activists in Jerada with sentences ranging from two to four years in prison.
By Amal El Attaq
Police charged protestors with “burning vehicles, obstructing passages, participation in an unauthorized demonstration, possessing weapons, damaging public goods, insulting an officer and using force against him,” according to lawyer Abdelhaq Benkada, a member of the protestors’ defense team in Jerada.
“We were shocked by these convictions issued against the detainees,” the lawyer told Reuters. “The harsh and unexpected sentences amounted to about sixty years in total.”
The convictions are “severe and catastrophic,” lamented Benkada. He related that one defendant suffering from a mental illness also received a two-year suspended sentence.
The lawyer added that “all evidences proved their innocence, and we have highlighted to the court the weakness of the story we received on the record.” He asserted that evidence would contradict the convictions.
On December 22, 2017, the death of two men working informally in a closed coal mine in Jerada triggered protests. At least nine deaths of the same type were recorded during 2018.
Activists protested their deaths, saying they were working in poor conditions. The protesters demanded social and economic reform for the city’s development and asked for economic alternatives to informal mining.
Later, the government promised to open projects to increase employment and provide aid measures against poverty in the region.