Moroccans to protest royal pardon for Spanish paedophile

RABAT (REUTERS) - Moroccans outraged by a royal pardon for a Spanish paedophile serving a 30-year sentence for raping 11 children in the North African kingdom are planning a protest in Rabat on Friday.

The convicted paedophile is among 48 jailed Spaniards who the state news agency MAP said were pardoned by King Mohamed VI on Tuesday at the request of Spain's King Juan Carlos, who visited Morocco last month.

Justice Minister Mustapha Ramid confirmed the paedophile is among the prisoners freed by the royal pardon and said he was expelled from Morocco on Thursday.

"That person is banned in Morocco's territory, he cannot return," the minister told Reuters.

A source at Spain's Foreign Ministry said Moroccan authorities had decided which prisoners would be released and that Spain was offering consular help to pardoned citizens.

The decision prompted a frenzy of angry postings on social media in Morocco.

Activists from the February 20 movement, which organised anti-government demonstrations during the Arab unrest of 2011, called for Friday's rally in the Moroccan capital.

"The king's pardon is a second rape for the victims," a woman identifying herself as Meryem El said on Twitter.

Mr Hamid Krayri, a lawyer for families of the victims, named the paedophile as Daniel Fino Galvan and said he had been convicted 18 months ago by criminal courts in Kenitra, near Rabat, of raping and filming children aged between 4 and 15.

"He is a retired Spaniard who owns two flats here in Kenitra," Mr Krayri, who is a member of Morocco's Human Rights Association, told Reuters.

He said he had filed a complaint against Galvan three years ago when activists had shown him video discs containing footage of the Spaniard and his victims.

Galvan's lawyer, Mr Mohamed Benjeddo, said his client had been freed on Wednesday and planned to leave for Spain the next day.

The Spanish embassy declined to confirm Galvan's release.

The king, like other Middle Eastern rulers, often pardons prisoners on special occasions, such as Throne Day on July 30, but the decision to release the Spaniards at the request of the monarch of a former colonial power has riled many here.

"Is this Morocco's way to reach the long-sought target of 10 million tourists a year?" blogger Nouhad Fathi asked in a sarcastic post on her Facebook wall.

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