Morocco's King Mohamed VI has bowed to angry protests and revoked a controversial pardon granted to Daniel Galvan Vina, a Spanish paedophile convicted of raping 11 children aged between the ages of four and 15.
In a deal struck with Spain's King Juan Carlos, Galvan was released after serving just two years of his 30-year sentence. He was among 48 Spanish prisoners pardoned by the Moroccan king and freed last week after the Spanish king visited Morocco in mid-July.
I think what happened is a sad story. An error. I think that Morocco has a strong civil society that voices out people's concerns. This is the first time that civil society opposes a decision taken by the king .... This is the first time in Morocco that a sexual abuser has been imprisoned for 30 years, and then two years later is released in such a way [that] people couldn’t accept that.
The pardon sparked outrage across Morocco when it was announced. And on Friday night, baton-wielding police dispersed several thousand people who tried to protest in front of the parliament in Rabat.
On Monday, King Mohamed sacked the country's prison chief after an inquiry blamed his department for Galvan's release, while a palace statement said: "The inquiry concluded that the said administration inadvertently provoked erroneous information about the criminal record of the prisoner in question when requested by the royal court."
But the issue is particularly sensitive in a country that has seen several high-profile paedophile arrests in recent months. The country has, in recent years, been targeted by paedophiles and sex tourists because of its poverty and relative closeness to Europe. By day, landmarks like Marrakech's Jemaa el-Fna are bustling cultural centres, but by night, they become ideal places for Western child molesters to seek their victims.
One study suggests that nearly half of all child sexual abuse complaints in Morocco involve foreign perpetrators. And in May, public opposition to sexual violence against children prompted thousands of people to march through the streets of Casablanca.
The case has provoked outrage and embarrassment in both Morocco and Spain, as questions are asked of both sides.
"We want to know why they asked for the Moroccan king to pardon this person, and how it was possible to renew his passport so quickly, allowing him to travel to Spain," Antonio Hernando, a Spanish opposition politician told Al Jazeera.
So, just what will happen to Galvan now? And how can Morocco tackle sex tourism and paedophilia?
Inside Story, with presenter Mike Hannah, is joined by guests: Miguel-Anxo Murado, a political analyst and writer; Dorothy Rozga, the executive director of ECPAT, an international NGO committed to ending the commercial and sexual exploitation of children; and Driss Ksikes, an author and playwright and director of the web journal Economia.
"This has been a source of embarrassment for the king of Spain because this pardon happened ... in the context of an official visit ... by the king of Spain to Morocco. And when the king of Spain came back, he, or rather his press office, was taking credit ... for pushing forward this pardon ... and then, of course, the royal house had to backtrack."
- Miguel-Anxo Murado, a Spanish political analyst
Source: Al Jazeera