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Morocco: 'De-radicalisation' offers prisoners route to freedom

Saleh has been languishing in Moroccan jails for 19 years on terrorism charges, but he hopes to be freed soon thanks to a de-radicalisation programme.

The former hard-line Islamist, today a bearded prisoner in his 50s, said he once held beliefs that justified violence. I believed Muslims had a duty to fight oppressive rulers who don’t apply Islamic law, and to attack states that fight Muslims,“ he told AFP in the library of Kenitra prison, near Rabat.“I believed Muslims had a duty to fight oppressive rulers who don’t apply Islamic law, and to attack states that fight Muslims,” he told AFP in the library of Kenitra prison, near Rabat.But those ideas were based on a literal reading of the Koran and sayings of the Prophet Mohammed “that I wasn’t qualified to understand”, he says.Today, after passing through the North African kingdom’s Moussalaha (“Reconciliation”) programme, he is hoping for a reprieve. The programme, launched in 2015 and led by Morocco’s DGAPR prison service with several partner organisations, aims to help terror detainees who are willing to question their beliefs.

The security services have dismantled more than 2,000 extremist cells and made over 3,500 arrests linked to terrorism since 2002, according to official figures published in February.

The programme “includes monitoring the participants and helping those who express a need for guidance”, he said. It also includes studies on law and the economy, as well as a three-month psychological accompaniment.It has so far reached 207 detainees, including eight women. Around 116 have received royal pardons and been freed, while 15 have had their terms reduced.

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