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Moroccan judges demonstrate for more independence

Associated Press Modified: October 6, 2012 at 12:02 pm •  Published: October 6, 2012

RABAT, Morocco (AP) — Around 1,000 Moroccan judges held an unprecedented sit-in Saturday in front of the Supreme Court, calling for greater independence for the judiciary.

The rare demonstration was organized by the Judges' Club, a group formed in August 2011 to push for judicial reform. The group has been officially banned, but is tolerated.

Morocco's courts have historically been weak and under the control of the king and his Justice Ministry, which determines judges' salaries and appointments so that they will often rule as instructed for the sake of their careers.

"We have no protection, no rights, we have a miserable salary, we work in catastrophic conditions," said Nazik Bekkal, a judge from Sidi Kassem in northern Morocco, at the demonstration. "Above all we are not autonomous, very simply, and that's what is most important, it's the autonomy, the independence of the judiciary, that's what we really are looking for."

Club founder Yassine Mkhelli, a judge from Taounate in northern Morocco, said that more than 2,200 judges — around two-thirds of the country's total — have signed their petitition calling for reforms.

In May, judges across the country wore red armbands to protest official interference in the judiciary in another action organized by the club.

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