The men have been found guilty of undermining the security of the state. That offence, according to article 201 of the Moroccan Criminal Code, can be even punished with death penalty.
Several Moroccan human rights activists as well as the Federation of the Democratic Left have denounced the sentences as the culmination of a “political process” aimed at suppressing the protest movement.
The protests began on 30 October 2016 following the death of fish vendor Mohcine Fikri in Al-Hoceima, the capital of Rif, crushed by a garbage truck after the police had confiscated his fish.
The movement grew steadily during the following weeks. The protesters, many of them waving Amazigh and Rif flags, demanded the demilitarization of the Rif, the improvement of infrastructures —including the building of a hospital and a university— and a clear action against corruption.
Rif is a mainly Amazigh territory in the north of Morocco. For decades, it has been systematically marginalized by the Moroccan authorities.