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A Birth Triggers Prisoners' Release

The king of Morocco sets free more than 9,000 prisoners after he greets his first son. Among those freed are 293 foreigners.

May 09, 2003|From Reuters

RABAT, Morocco — King Mohammed VI of Morocco celebrated the birth of his first son and heir to the throne Thursday by ordering the release of 9,459 prisoners from his nation's crowded jails.

A Royal Palace communique announced the birth of Moulay el Hassan, or Prince Hassan, here in the capital and said mother and baby were in good health.

The prince is the couple's first child, and the Royal Guard fired a 101-gun salute to celebrate the event.

The official MAP news agency said the released prisoners included 293 foreigners. It said jail sentences were reduced for 38,529 other inmates. The agency did not name those freed or say whether any political activists were among them.

The decrepit state of Moroccan prisons has often been criticized, especially after the death in November of 50 inmates in a fire in El Jadida, on the Atlantic coast.

Mohammed, 39, ascended to the throne in July 1999 after the death of his father, King Hassan II, who ruled the Muslim North African country for 38 years. The Alawite dynasty to which they belong has ruled Morocco since the 17th century.

In March 2002, Mohammed married Salma Bennani, a 24-year-old computer systems engineer and daughter of a college lecturer from the city of Fez.

She received the title of princess -- a break with a tradition that the king's wife was known as "mother of the princes."

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