Morocco Frees Coup Leader's Relatives After 18 Years in Jail

From Associated Press

Relatives of a former minister who allegedly led an attempt to kill King Hassan II have been freed after 18 years in prison, officials said Friday, putting an end to Morocco's most famous human rights case.

The Information Ministry announced that Hassan also granted clemency to 2,268 prisoners, ranging from full pardons to shortened sentences. No details were provided on the prisoners.

The widow, children and cousin of Gen. Mohamed Oufkir had never been charged since being sent to jail after the August, 1972, coup attempt allegedly organized by the defense minister.

The family members are now free to leave the country if they want, said the officials, who refused to be further identified. The information was confirmed by sources close to the family.

"It is very good news," said Daniel Bernard, spokesman for the foreign ministry of France, the North African country's colonial ruler from 1912 to 1956.

There was no indication why Hassan chose to free them now, but the king has come under increasing criticism abroad for alleged human rights violations under his rule.

Political observers speculated that the king would make the announcement official on Sunday to mark the 30th anniversary of his reign.

Oufkir's wife, Fatima Chenna Oufkir; her six children, and a cousin were jailed in December, 1972.

In April, 1987, four of the children escaped, fled to Tangiers and contacted two French human-rights attorneys, Georges Kiejman and Bernard Dartevelle. Police later recaptured them, but the lawyers publicized the case.

Since then, the family's conditions have improved; they had been held recently under house arrest at a villa near Marrakesh.

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