Morocco’s King Mohammed VI has granted royal pardons to thousands of prisoners across the country, including to some involved in protests that rocked the North African country in 2016 and 2017.
The demonstrations – sparked by a fishmonger who was crushed to death by a rubbish lorry in the city of Al-Hoceima as he tried to protect fish being confiscated by the police – spiralled into demands for action to be taken against corruption and unemployment.
They were organised by the so-called Hirak movement and unrest spread throughout the northern Rif region.
More than 400 protesters are thought to have been arrested and tried in connection with the demonstrations, but no official figures are available. Around 250 of them have previously been pardoned.
The justice ministry said 4,764 people were being granted a pardon to mark the 20th anniversary of the monarch’s accession to the throne.
The king also pledged a government reshuffle and an injection of “new blood” into political and administrative positions to help tackle inequality in the country.
The 55-year-old monarch welcomed progress in infrastructure and freedoms in the country but said the efforts had not had “sufficient impact”.
He also reiterated his “policy of the outstretched hand toward Algeria”, noting the “brotherhood” and “joy” expressed in Morocco after the Algerian team won the recent Africa Cup of Nations tournament.
Shared borders have been closed between the two North African neighbours since 1994.
They have been at loggerheads over a number of issues, including the disputed territory of Western Sahara – claimed by Morocco and the Saharawi people, who are led by the Algerian-backed Polisario Front.