The Ministry of Justice in Rabat has announced that King Mohammed VI has graciously pardoned 783 prisoners as part of the celebrations for the 75th Anniversary of the Manifesto of Independence. This is in accordance with the practice where pardons are given as part of the celebrations for national and religious holidays in Morocco. Most recently the King pardoned 792 prisoners as part of the festivities for Eid Al Mawlid.
It should be noted that this kind of ruling does not necessarily mean that the prisoners are completely released. Far from it, it actually results in a reduction in sentencing for most of the prisoners – though one lucky person this time has had his death penalty commuted to a life sentence. The ruling covered all areas and levels from the thirteen prisoners who have life terms reduced to shorter sentences, to the one hundred and forty-three who has their fines annulled.
Though we may wonder why we do not go down this route in Britain, especially, when we are concerned about problems and overcrowding in prisons there is something else, we must consider. In Britain, and I suspect not in Morocco we have organisations like parole boards who do this kind of thing periodically, though only on sentencing and not on fines.
The 11th January marks a significant moment in modern day Moroccan history. The country had been ruled as a protectorate partly by France and partly by Spain since the Treaty of Fez in 1912. There were uprisings against this, and on the 11th January 1944, the Independence Party published its Manifesto of Independence which wanted three basic needs; independence for Morocco, the reunification of the French and Spanish parts and a democratic constitution. Though the manifesto was flatly refused and ignored by the French general in charge, many consider that this act was the first step on the road that led to independence twelve years later.