Morocco pledges probe af­ter protests over ven­dor’s death

Kuwait Times - - NEWS -

Moroc­can au­thor­i­ties were promis­ing yes­ter­day to in­ves­ti­gate the death of a fish seller whose crush­ing in a rub­bish truck sparked wide­spread demon­stra­tions. Mouhcine Fikri, 31, was crushed to death on Fri­day in the truck in the north­ern city of AlHo­ceima as he re­port­edly tried to protest against au­thor­i­ties seiz­ing and de­stroy­ing his wares. His death in the Rif - an eth­ni­cally Ber­ber re­gion long ne­glected un­der the for­mer king and at the heart of a 2011 protest move­ment for re­form - has trig­gered out­rage in other cities in­clud­ing the cap­i­tal Ra­bat.

Thou­sands at­tended Fikri’s funeral in Al-Hoceima yes­ter­day af­ter an im­age of his in­ert body - head and arm stick­ing out from un­der the lorry’s crush­ing mech­a­nism - went vi­ral on so­cial me­dia. The grue­some im­age was splashed across the front page of news­pa­pers yes­ter­day along­side pho­tos of the protests - in AlHo­ceima as well as in smaller Rif towns, but also in Casablanca, Mar­rakesh and Ra­bat.

“Morocco is in shock. The hor­rific death of the fish seller has caused tears in the Rif and out­rage among Moroc­cans,” the daily Akhbar Aly­oum said. Im­ages on so­cial me­dia showed hun­dreds of high school stu­dents protest­ing in Al-Hoceima yes­ter­day morn­ing. Au­topsy re­sults quoted by the me­dia yes­ter­day showed “frac­tures of the five first ribs left and right” and re­ported death from “hem­or­rhagic shock af­ter a chest wound.”

The cir­cum­stances of the fish­mon­ger’s death have re­mained un­clear. But a hu­man rights ac­tivist said on Sun­day that the au­thor­i­ties had forced the fish­mon­ger to de­stroy sev­eral boxes of sword­fish, which it is il­le­gal to catch us­ing drift­nets. Fikri threw him­self in the truck af­ter his goods were crushed by the ma­chine, Fas­sal Aous­sar from the Moroc­can As­so­ci­a­tion of Hu­man Rights (AMDH) said.

In­te­rior Min­is­ter Mo­hamed Has­sad late on Sun­day vowed that an in­ves­ti­ga­tion would be held to “de­ter­mine the ex­act cir­cum­stances of the tragedy and pun­ish those re­spon­si­ble”. He said au­thor­i­ties found “a large quan­tity of sword­fish” in his car at a po­lice check­point and “a de­ci­sion was taken to de­stroy the il­le­gal goods”. “All ques­tions are about what hap­pened af­ter that,” he said. “We can­not ac­cept of­fi­cials act­ing in haste, anger or in con­di­tions that do not re­spect peo­ple’s rights.”

It was the self-im­mo­la­tion of a street ven­dor in Tu­nisia in late 2010 in protest at po­lice ha­rass­ment that sparked Tu­nisia’s revo­lu­tion and the Arab Spring up­ris­ings across the rest of the re­gion the next year. The AMDH on Sun­day warned of a “pos­si­ble re­peat” of the 2011 protests in the Rif, just a week be­fore Morocco starts host­ing in­ter­na­tional cli­mate talks. King Mo­hammed VI or­dered a “thor­ough and ex­haus­tive in­ves­ti­ga­tion” into Fikri’s death and the “pros­e­cu­tion of who­ever is found re­spon­si­ble”, the in­te­rior min­istry said.

The king - who was in Zanz­ibar at the week­end on a tour of East Africa - sent the in­te­rior min­is­ter to “present his con­do­lences” to Fikri’s fam­ily, it said. Morocco is due to host the COP22 cli­mate talks in Mar­rakesh from Nov 7 to 18. Prime Min­is­ter Ab­delilah Benki­rane re­leased a state­ment Satur­day pre­sent­ing his con­do­lences over Fikri’s death, but urg­ing mem­bers and sup­port­ers of his party to re­frain from par­tic­i­pat­ing in protests.

“Peo­ple are re­ally pissed off, and can’t keep be­ing silent any­more,” said Ab­del­lah Lef­natsa, a union leader from a left­wing move­ment among the more than 1,000 peo­ple protest­ing in front of the Par­lia­ment in the cap­i­tal, Ra­bat. He claimed that stu­dents, work­ers and ac­tivists have died be­cause of po­lice vi­o­lence in re­cent years. Rachid Hi­lali, a tech­nol­ogy pro­ject man­ager at the Ra­bat protest, said, “To me what hap­pened in Al Hoceima should not hap­pen in 2016. This way of killing peo­ple by the po­lice, our grand­fa­thers are used to it, but we should not be used to this. We can­not ac­cept this kind of treat­ment any­more.” Such protests are rare in Morocco. — Agen­cies

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.