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Moroccan King Pardons Nearly 25,000 Prisoners

King Mohammed VI pardoned nearly 25,000 prisoners Wednesday, including pregnant women, foreigners and some on death row, in a traditional royal gesture as this North African country feted the 10th anniversary of his coronation.

The 45-year-old king also made small adjustments to the government.

The 24,865 prisoners accorded a royal pardon included pregnant women, children, the aged and 659 foreigners convicted in Morocco, the Justice Ministry said. Most of those pardoned were being freed from jail. However, some received reduced sentences — including 32 inmates on death row whose sentences were reduced to life in prison.

The ministry statement said 517 inmates benefiting from the pardon were pregnant women or women accompanied by children. The pardons were made "on the basis of the principles and noble ethical values" of Morocco, it said.

The king used the occasion to tweak the government, notably naming writer and philosopher Bensalem Himmich as culture minister, replacing ex-actress Saadia Kritef, who is in ill health.

Mohammed took the throne June 23, 1999, upon the death of his father, King Hassen II, who had ruled for 38 years.

Mohammed, dubbed M-6 by many here, remains boyish-looking. Once rumored to prefer fast cars to royal trappings, he has grown on the job, assuming the powerful but behind-the-scenes role of the Moroccan monarchy. The king received a stream of good wishes from world leaders Wednesday.

This Muslim country on the Atlantic coast remains a steadfast ally of the United States and the West. Known for its moderate brand of Islam, it nevertheless has struggled with extremist Islamists. The announcement of pardons did not say whether the hundreds convicted of crimes included jailed extremists.

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