Protests continue in Morocco to free activists of movement in northeast

RABAT, Oct. 10– Up to 1,000 people took on the streets on Sunday
in Morocco’s largest city of Casablanca to demand freedom for activists
arrested for involvement in protests in the northeastern region of the
country since a year ago.

Organized by left-wing parties, human rights groups and civil society
organizations, the protesters rallied to ask for an end to the hundreds of
trials for the detainees in the city of Al Hoceima and its neighboring
towns in the northeastern Rif region. “We are here to demand the immediate
release of the detainees and an open debate on their requests, and above
all to fight the corruption that deteriorates the Rif region,” said Nabila
Mounib, president of the Federation of the Democratic Left. The
demonstration was the latest of a wave of protests demanding the liberation
of activists participating in the protest in Rif.

Several leading figures of the protests are expected to go on trial on Oct.
17 in Casablanca, however, the trial date has not been set for Nasser
Zefzafi, the movement leader who faces charge of undermining state
security. The situation in Al Hoceima has been tense since October 2016,
when fish vendor Mouhcine Fikri was crushed to death after climbing into a
rubbish lorry to retrieve his swordfish confiscated by police. The demand
for justice for Fikri in the northeastern region has evolved into a major
grassroots movement to protest against the delay in the implementation of
scheduled projects and requesting greater government investment to create
more jobs.

In 2015, Morocco launched the “Lighthouse of the Mediterranean,” a
large-scale development program in Al Hoceima, but many of its projects
have been marred by delays. Earlier this month, an official investigation
committee revealed that many development projects in Al Hoceima witnessed
“delay or failure”, while excluding any act of embezzlement or fraud.
Disappointed by the delays, Morocco’s King Mohammed VI cancelled in late
June the vacations of ministers concerning the implementation of the
development program, and set up a committee to investigate officials
responsible for the delays. – XINHUA