Morocco’s King Mohammed VI pardoned over a thousand people on Saturday, including mant detained for participating in protests in the volatile northern Rif region, the country’s justice ministry announced.
The pardon, which was announced just before the monarch gave a speech marking 18 years on the throne, will apply to a total of 1,178 people.
The ministry said pardons were given to individuals “who have not committed crimes and who are not implicated in serious acts … bearing in mind their family and humanitarian conditions”.
The Rif, a predominantly Berber region where al-Hoceima is located, has been gripped by months of unrest.
Protests erupted last October after a fishmonger was crushed to death in a rubbish truck as he tried to retrieve a swordfish confiscated for being caught out of season.
Demands for justice later snowballed into a wider social movement named Al-Hirak al-Shaabi, calling for jobs, development and an end to corruption.
Abdessadek Al-Bouchtaoui, a lawyer for detained protesters, described the mass pardon as “a positive step but it does not go far enough, because we are calling for the release of everyone held”.
According to the latest official figures, 176 were being held, including the movement’s leader, Nasser Zefzafi.
For months, the predominantly Berber Rif region has experienced waves of unrest over government neglect of the region.
Dissatisfaction with the government boiled over last October, when a fishmonger was crushed to death in a rubbish truck trying to salvage a swordfish that had been confiscated for being caught out of season.
The Hirak al-Shaabi movement grew from protests that sprung up after the death, calling for jobs, investment in the region and an end to corruption.