Morocco Jails 16 Over Protest in Mining Town

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A Moroccan court has sentenced 16 people to prison terms ranging from two months to five years in connection with protests in the impoverished former mining town of Jerada, their lawyer said on Friday.

The defendants were accused of “destroying public property, incitement to commit crimes or participating in an unauthorised demonstration,” defence attorney Abdelhak Benkada told AFP.

The verdicts were pronounced overnight on Thursday, he said, adding that another defendant was given a one-month jail sentence for taking part in an unlicensed protest.

All of the defendants had been behind bars since mid-March following a protest and clashes during which 312 security forces and 32 protesters were injured, according to an official toll.

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Jerada in northeastern Morocco has been hit by social unrest and protests after the deaths last December of two brothers trapped in a mine shaft followed by two other accidental deaths.

On Tuesday three other people were killed and three others injured when a zinc and lead mine collapsed at a mine near the town.

Protesters have been calling for “economic alternatives” to “death mines” and authorities have pledged a series of measures to revive the economy in Jerada, one of the poorest regions of the North African country.

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