June 27, 2017 / 4:39 PM / 3 months ago

Moroccan police arrest 50 after protest clashes - activists

RABAT (Reuters) - Around 50 protesters were arrested following violent clashes with Moroccan police in the northern city of Al-Hoceima on Monday during the Eid al-Fitr holiday, a local rights activist said.

Since police in the North African country arrested Nasser Zefzafi, who organised protests against corruption and unemployment, on May 29, demonstrations have taken place on an almost daily basis and more than 100 activists have been detained by police. Dozens of others have been sentenced to varying prison terms.

According to MAP state news agency, 39 police were admitted to hospital after being injured by “a group of individuals” who threw stones at the officials on Monday night.

The ministry of justice did not respond to a request for details on the arrests.

On Monday, clashes erupted after a renewed call for the release of those detained and imprisoned.

According to Faisal Aussar, a member of the local branch of the Moroccan Human Rights Association, police and gendarmes blocked access to Al-Hoceima from multiple directions. He said around 50 people were detained after police fired tear gas and used batons to deal with the demonstrators. 

“Even in the presence of women, police used truncheons and threw punches to disperse the protests,” Aussar said.

Since October, demonstrators in Al-Hoceima have vented their frustration over economic and social problems in a kingdom where political protests used to be rare and where the government tries to present the country as a beacon of stability.

The so called “Hirak” or Peoples’ movement was born after the death of fishmonger Mouhcine Fikri who was crushed inside a garbage truck trying to recover fish confiscated by police. His death became a symbol of corruption and official abuses.

Over the weekend, King Mohammed VI presided over a government council meeting where he expressed his “displeasure and concern” regarding the delay in promised development projects in the region, according to a statement on MAP.

Mohammed VI ordered the minister of interior and minister of finance to carry out investigations into the reason behind the project delays, the statement read. But there was no mention of a possible pardon for arrested protest leaders.

Editing by Patrick Markey and Pritha Sarkar

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