Morocco, Algeria grant pardons to mark festival

/ Source: The Associated Press

Moroccan King Mohamed VI has pardoned 617 prisoners in honor of Eid al-Fitr, the holiday marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the Justice Ministry said Tuesday.

The royal pardon suspended prison sentences for hundreds of convicts throughout Morocco, including three sentenced to life in prison, the ministry said in a statement released by state news agency MAP. Less serious offenders were spared from having to pay fines.

The king traditionally has marked public holidays and other important occasions with mass pardons.

Human rights groups allege that the prisoners in question are often innocents wrongly held.

In neighboring Algeria, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika issued a decree allowing for the pardon of an unspecified number of prisoners sentenced to life in prison, according to an official statement Monday.

Bouteflika's gesture was in honor of Eid al-Fitr, as well as the upcoming anniversary of Algeria's war of independence, which began Nov. 1, 1954.

Bouteflika's periodic mass pardons, timed, like those of Morocco's king, to important dates, exclude prisoners who have threatened public security. Algeria's 2005 Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation allowed for pardons of some Islamists involved in an insurgency that rocked the country in the 1990s.