Thousands of protesters in the North African kingdom of Morocco have staged night rallies to demand the release of a leader of an uprising in the restive northern Rif region.
The rallies were held on Tuesday to demand the freedom of Nasser Zefzafi, the leader of the grassroots Popular Movement in the region who was arrested on Monday.
The region has seen unrest since the October 2016 death of a 31-year-old fish vendor, Mouhcine Fikri, who was crushed to death in a rubbish truck in the fishing port of al-Hoceima as he protested against the seizure of swordfish caught out of season.
The protesters staged rallies near the center of al-Hoceima for a fifth straight night at around 10 p.m. local time after breaking their fasts during the holy Islamic month of Ramadan.
Similar protest events were also staged in the neighboring town of Imzouren, amid a heavy presence of police forces, as indicated by images published on social media networks.
Smaller demonstrations were also held in the capital, Rabat, as well as in the commercial hub Casablanca but were quickly suppressed by police forces.
Zefzafi’s arrest was ordered after he allegedly interrupted a preacher at a local mosque on Friday and urged people to continue protest rallies. Government prosecutors alleged that he had “obstructed, in the company of a group of individuals, freedom of worship” at the mosque in al-Hoceima.
He was taken into custody on Monday “along with other individuals” and transferred to Casablanca, prosecutors said.
The largely ethnic Berber Rif region has long had a tense relationship with Morocco’s central authorities and was at the heart of Arab Spring-inspired protests in 2011. Those protests rallies subsided after a series of political reforms, including constitutional changes that limited some of the wide-ranging powers of Morocco’s King Mohamed VI.
By Africafrique and agengies