Thousands of demonstrators in Morocco are condemning prison sentences given to the leader of the Hirak Rif anti-poverty movement and dozens of other activists.

The demonstration brought one of the main avenues of the Moroccan capital, Rabat, to a standstill on Sunday. Security forces kept watch as participants sang, “The people want the detainees released” and “Long live Rif.”

Hirak leader Nasser Zefzafi was sentenced to the maximum prison term of 20 years for threatening state security. An appeals court upheld his sentence and those of other activists this month.

Moroccan women take part in demonstration in Rabat, Morocco, Sunday, April 21, 2019. Protesters are condemning prison terms for the leader of the Hirak Rif protest movement against poverty and dozens of other activists. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)
Moroccan women take part in demonstration in Rabat, Morocco, Sunday, April 21, 2019. Protesters are condemning prison terms for the leader of the Hirak Rif protest movement against poverty and dozens of other activists. (AP Photo/Mosa’ab Elshamy)

Rif is the struggling region in northern Morocco where the Hirak movement was born in 2016. The movement demands development and job creation for the region.

Relatives, human rights organizations and left-wing parties are demanding the imprisoned activists’ immediate release.

A protester takes part in a demonstration in Rabat, Morocco, Sunday, April 21, 2019. Protesters are condemning prison terms for the leader of the Hirak Rif protest movement against poverty and dozens of other activists. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)
A protester takes part in a demonstration in Rabat, Morocco, Sunday, April 21, 2019. Protesters are condemning prison terms for the leader of the Hirak Rif protest movement against poverty and dozens of other activists. (AP Photo/Mosa’ab Elshamy)
Moroccans chant slogans as they take part in a demonstration in Rabat, Morocco, Sunday, April 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)
Moroccans chant slogans as they take part in a demonstration in Rabat, Morocco, Sunday, April 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Mosa’ab Elshamy)
Birds fly as Moroccans gesture and chant slogans during a demonstration in Rabat, Morocco, Sunday, April 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)
Birds fly as Moroccans gesture and chant slogans during a demonstration in Rabat, Morocco, Sunday, April 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Mosa’ab Elshamy)
Young boys observe as thousands of Moroccans take part in a demonstration in Rabat, Morocco, Sunday, April 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)
Young boys observe as thousands of Moroccans take part in a demonstration in Rabat, Morocco, Sunday, April 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Mosa’ab Elshamy)
Moroccans hold hands as they take part in a demonstration in Rabat, Morocco, Sunday, April 21, 2019. Protesters are condemning prison terms for the leader of the Hirak Rif protest movement against poverty and dozens of other activists. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)
Moroccans hold hands as they take part in a demonstration in Rabat, Morocco, Sunday, April 21, 2019. Protesters are condemning prison terms for the leader of the Hirak Rif protest movement against poverty and dozens of other activists. (AP Photo/Mosa’ab Elshamy)
Thousands of Moroccans take part in a demonstration in Rabat, Morocco, Sunday, April 21, 2019. Protesters are condemning prison terms for the leader of the Hirak Rif protest movement against poverty and dozens of other activists. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)
Thousands of Moroccans take part in a demonstration in Rabat, Morocco, Sunday, April 21, 2019. Protesters are condemning prison terms for the leader of the Hirak Rif protest movement against poverty and dozens of other activists. (AP Photo/Mosa’ab Elshamy)
Moroccans gesture and chant slogans as they take part in a demonstration in Rabat, Morocco, Sunday, April 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)
Moroccans gesture and chant slogans as they take part in a demonstration in Rabat, Morocco, Sunday, April 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Mosa’ab Elshamy)
A woman carries a banner of detained journalist Taoufik Bouachrine during a demonstration in Rabat, Morocco, Sunday, April 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)
A woman carries a banner of detained journalist Taoufik Bouachrine during a demonstration in Rabat, Morocco, Sunday, April 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Mosa’ab Elshamy)
A protester holds a photo of Hirak leader Nasser Zefzafi during a demonstration in Rabat, Morocco, Sunday, April 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)
A protester holds a photo of Hirak leader Nasser Zefzafi during a demonstration in Rabat, Morocco, Sunday, April 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Mosa’ab Elshamy)
Moroccans wave Berber flags and chant slogans as they take part in a demonstration in Rabat, Morocco, Sunday, April 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)
Moroccans wave Berber flags and chant slogans as they take part in a demonstration in Rabat, Morocco, Sunday, April 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Mosa’ab Elshamy)
Thousands of Moroccans wave Berber flags and hold photos of detained activists as they take part in a demonstration in Rabat, Morocco, Sunday, April 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)
Thousands of Moroccans wave Berber flags and hold photos of detained activists as they take part in a demonstration in Rabat, Morocco, Sunday, April 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Mosa’ab Elshamy)
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