LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- Morocco have been cleared to play in the next two editions of the African Nations Cup after the Court of Arbitration for Sport lifted the ban imposed by the Confederation of African Football on Thursday.
The North-African nation was expelled from the 2017 and 2019 tournaments and was fined $1 million by the CAF, which also demanded a further $9 million in compensation, after the country pulled out because of the Ebola epidemic.
Although it acknowledged Morocco's decision to withdraw was not an absolute necessity, CAS ruled that the heavy sanctions were disproportionate and that the CAF's regulations did not expressly provide for a team's removal from future competitions.
"The CAS Panel has upheld the appeal in a large proportion," CAS said in a statement. "The sanctions imposed by the CAF on the (Moroccan federation) have been set aside, with the exception of the fine, which is however reduced to $50,000."
Morocco were disqualified from this year's tournament after withdrawing as hosts just two months before the start of the competition, citing health risks from fans traveling from Ebola-affected regions. They asked for a delay but CAF refused and the tournament was moved to Equatorial Guinea.
Moroccan federation vice-president Nourredine Bouchhati welcomed the CAS decision as "excellent news."
"It puts an end for now to this conflict with the CAF, with which we will continue to work with normally," he told local media. "Now we will meet with national coach Baddou Zaki to begin our program of preparations."
CAS however said that CAF might be entitled to compensation for the "possible damage" caused by Morocco, an issue that "may still be examined by another jurisdiction."