Echoes of Tunisia in Morocco as protests continue

RABAT, Morocco (AFP) – Morocco has arrested 11 people suspected of manslaughter following the death of a fish seller whose crash in a garbage truck sparked protests, prosecutors said on Tuesday.

Mouhcine Fikri, 31, was accidentally killed on Friday in the northern town of Al-Hoceima as he tried to protest the seizure and destruction of swordfish, which are not allowed to be caught at this time of the year. ‘year.

His death in the Rif – a long neglected ethnically Berber region and at the heart of a reform protest movement in 2011 – sparked outrage in other cities including the capital Rabat.

It was the self-immolation of a street vendor in Tunisia at the end of 2010 to protest against the police harassment that sparked the Tunisian revolution and the Arab Spring uprisings in the rest of the region the following year.

The 11 suspects were brought before an investigating judge on Tuesday in connection with allegations that also include the falsification of public documents, according to a statement from the prosecution.

Two Interior Ministry employees, as well as two fisheries officials and the head of the local veterinary services were among those arrested, the prosecution said.

The five suspects as well as three garbage collection workers were remanded in custody, he said, without identifying the other people arrested.

More than 20 people were questioned during the investigation, according to a statement released by the official MAP news agency.

Investigation found that the driver received a signal from a garbage collector to turn on the crusher while Fikri was in the truck with several people trying to prevent the fish from loading.

The investigation revealed that there was “no order to assault the victim by any party”.

Some protesters accused authorities of intentionally starting the crusher while Fikri was in the back of the truck.

‘Martyr Mouhcine’

Thousands of people attended Fikri’s funeral in Al-Hoceima on Sunday after an image of his inert body – head and arm sticking out of the truck’s chipper – went viral on social media.

Large crowds gathered in the city again on Monday evening, waving Berber flags and demanding justice for “martyr Mouhcine”.

King Mohammed VI was quick to order a “full and comprehensive investigation” into Fikri’s death and sent the interior minister to offer his condolences to his family.

King Mohammed VI of Morocco at the residence of the Moroccan Ambassador to the United States in Washington, DC, November 20, 2013 (US Department of State)

The king, a descendant of a monarchy that has reigned for 350 years, relinquished some of his near-absolute power following the massive protests of the Arab Spring of 2011.

According to the findings of the investigation into Fikri’s death, the seller had purchased nearly 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds) of swordfish, which is subject to a fall fishing ban, from fishermen in the port of Al-Hoceima.

He entrusted his property to a third party whose vehicle escaped controls on leaving the port but was arrested in town.

A fisheries official who visited the scene found violations and police notified prosecutors who ordered the confiscation of the fish, MAP reported.

An official veterinarian then ordered its destruction due to the lack of certification of origin.

The allegations of tampering with public documents relate to the destruction order issued to the garbage collection company, prosecutors said.

The Moroccan Association for Human Rights on Sunday warned of a “possible repeat” of the 2011 protests in the Rif, just a week before Morocco hosted international climate talks in Marrakech from 7 to November 18.

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