Morocco's king has a son, and 9,400 have freedom
By Isambard Wilkinson in Huelva
King Mohammed VI of Morocco celebrated the birth of a son and heir yesterday by ordering the release of more than 9,400 prisoners from the country's crowded jails.
A palace communique, issued shortly after a 21-gun salute had echoed around the walls of the royal compound in Rabat, announced the birth of Moulay Al Hassan, who will succeed his father to the throne.
To celebrate the event, the official MAP news agency said the king had decided to free 9,459 prisoners, including 293 foreigners, and reduce the jail sentences of 38,529.
King Mohammed VI, 39, ascended the throne in 1999 following the death of his father, who had ruled for 38 years.
In March 2002, the young king married Salma Bannani, 24, a commoner from a middle-class family from Fez who worked for one of Morocco's largest conglomerates. The baby is their first child.
The palace statement said the child and Princess Salma were in good health and that the boy was named "after his august grandfather, His Majesty Hassan II".
A Moroccan government spokesman said: "The announcement put an end to lots of gossip and worry in the souk. People have been waiting for news over the last few days."
The newly born prince is the latest addition to the Alawite dynasty that has ruled Morocco since 1665. He will one day become the 18th sovereign of the dynasty, assuming the name Hassan III.
He will most probably not assume the throne at an easy time. Although his father has began the laborious programme of reform, forces that remained in check under the iron grip of Hassan II have now been unleashed.
Powerful courtiers oppose change while critics claim that every day without further reform gives further credibility to Islamist factions. Moderate Islamists won a third of the seats in a general election last year against a backdrop of increasing anger with the monarch's pro-America stance.
When Mohammed came to the throne he was known as The King of Cool, not just for his keen dress sense but for his reputed travels incognito among his subjects to find out at first hand their needs.
Critics soon attacked this image as a distortion, saying the king was damaged by his bullying father, and that he was a weak and rather foppish king who could not address the problems of his kingdom.
Article From: news.telegraph.co.uk