Morocco:Casablanca hold massive rally for jailed activists

Hundreds of protesters have poured onto the streets of Casablanca, demanding that authorities release the jailed activists of a protest movement that has rocked Morocco’s neglected northern Rif region for months.

Up to 1,000 protesters, led by organizers perched on a pickup truck with megaphones, gathered at a main intersection of the country’s economic capital on Sunday.

The angry protesters chanted slogans such as “freedom, dignity, social justice.” They also demanded the release of activists who were jailed for their roles in the protest movement, which took off a year ago in a neglected northern city.

Nabila Mounib, the president of the Federation of the Democratic Left, said at the rally, “We are here to say, ‘Enough’.”

“Release the detainees and open a debate on their demands, and above all fight the corruption that gangrenes the Rif region,” added Mounib.

The demonstration was the latest of numerous protests demanding the release of activists from the city of al-Hoceima in Rif.

Leading figures in the opposition movement al-Hirak are set to go on trial in Casablanca on October 17. No trial date has been set for the movement’s leader Nasser Zefzafi, who was detained in late May after a dramatic

Moroccan authorities arrest protest leader Nasser Zefzafi, who had been on the run since Friday.

In coming days, an appeals court will decide whether a charge of attacking state security is maintained. The charge carries a risk of capital punishment.

The protest movement has become the biggest challenge to the North African kingdom.

The mainly Berber Rif region has been rocked by social unrest since the gruesome death of a fishmonger in al-Hoceima last October.

Mouhcine Fikri, 31, was crushed to death in a rubbish truck as he tried to prevent the destruction of swordfish that had been confiscated after being caught out of season.

Calls for justice snowballed into a wider social movement led by al-Hirak demanding development, an end to corruption and jobs for Rif.

Rif has long had a tense relationship with the central authorities in Rabat, and it was at the heart of the Arab Spring-inspired protests in Morocco in February 2011.

King Mohamed VI relinquished some of his near-absolute control through constitutional reforms following the 2011 protests.

By Africafrique and agencies

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