Thursday , October 19 2017

Thousands rally in Morocco for release of protest leader

Demonstrators hold pictures of Nasser Zafzafi, leader of the Rif region’s protest movement, during a demonstration against corruption, repression and unemployment in the northern city of al-Hoceima on May 30. (AFP)

Several thousand people took to the streets in Morocco after dark on Tuesday to demand the release of the leader of months of protests in the neglected northern Rif region.

The region has been shaken by social unrest since the death in October of fishmonger Mouhcine Fikri, 31, who was crushed in a rubbish truck in the fishing port of Al-Hoceima as he protested against the seizure of swordfish caught out of season.

Nasser Zefzafi, who has emerged as the head of the grassroots Popular Movement, was arrested on Monday after three days on the run. Demonstrators came out near the centre of Al-Hoceima for a fifth straight night at around 10 pm (2200 GMT), after the breaking of the daytime fast observed by Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan.

The protesters shouted slogans including “We are all Zefzafi” and “End militarisation”, with hundreds of them brandishing photographs of the detained leader. Anti-riot police attempted to disperse the protest, but pulled back following a tense but non-violent standoff with the demonstrators. A similar demonstration took place in the neighbouring town of Imzouren, with a strong police presence, images on social media showed. Smaller protests were held in the capital Rabat and the commercial capital Casablanca but were broken up by police, Moroccan media reported. (AFP)

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