Thursday – 2/9/2012, 12:12pm ET
Muslim cleric Hassan al-Kettani speaks at a press conference in Rabat, Morocco Thursday, Feb. 9, 2012. Three conservative sheikhs, recently pardoned by the king after nine years in prison, complained of torture and called for the release of all prisoners of conscience. (AP Photo/Paul Schemm)
By PAUL SCHEMM
RABAT, Morocco (AP) – Three conservative clerics whose arrests nine years ago heralded the beginning of Morocco’s crackdown on Islamists called on Thursday for a new investigation into their country’s worst terrorist attack.
After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the U.S., Moroccan authorities began targeting hardline Islamist clerics, especially those believed to be sympathetic to al-Qaida _ a crackdown that broadened after the May 2003 bombings in Casablanca that killed 45.
The three clerics were convicted and sentenced to up to 30 years in prison at the start of 2003 _ before the Casablanca attacks. Their pardoning by the king and release from prison over the weekend on the Prophet Muhammad‘s birthday suggests the government may finally be relaxing a fierce campaign against Islamists characterized by mass arrests.
In a news conference, the clerics said a new probe is needed to find out who was behind the bombings. The results of official investigations were never publicized though several people were convicted for carrying it out. Continue reading