RABAT, Morocco (AP) — A Moroccan court has sentenced 13 migrants, mostly from Sudan, to 2½ years in prison over a mass attempt to scale the border fence separating Morocco from the Spanish enclave of Melilla.

The decision Wednesday in the northern Moroccan city of Nador was the latest — and toughest — ruling handed down after dozens of people were arrested for the June 24 crossing attempt. At least 23 died that day in what Moroccan authorities called a stampede, as hundreds of people stormed the fence in a desperate bid to reach Europe.

The Moroccan Association for Human Rights described Wednesday’s ruling as a “very harsh verdict which shows how the judiciary was mobilized in the service of migration policies at the expense of asylum-seeking migrants.”

The 13 were convicted of various charges including illegal entry into Moroccan territory, violence against public officials, armed gathering, disobedience and joining a gang to organize and facilitate clandestine immigration abroad and arson. The court also ordered each of the defendants to pay 1,000 dirham (nearly $100).

Most of the 13 were from Sudan, and others were from Chad and South Sudan, according to activists who followed the case.

Last month, another Nador court sentenced 33 people to 11 months in prison over the June 24 crossing attempt. That court also sentenced 14 people earlier this month to eight months in prison in the same case.


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