- Title: Morocco protesters demand release of acitivist
- Date: 1st June 2017
- Summary: AL-HOCEIMA, MOROCCO (MAY 29, 2017) (VIDEO OBTAINED BY REUTERS) WIDE SHOT OF PROTESTERS
- Embargoed: 15th June 2017 15:33
- Keywords: Hoceima protest Morocco
- Location: AL-HOCEIMA, MOROCCO
- City: AL-HOCEIMA, MOROCCO
- Country: Morocco
- Topics: Government/Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA0036JG5V0N
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Protesters gathered in the northern Moroccan town of Al-Hoceima on Wednesday (May 31) demanding the release of an activist who had been organising protests against official abuses and corruption.
State news agency MAP said, citing the general prosecutor, said Nasser Zefzafi, who has helped organise months of protests, would be investigated on charges of "threatening national security" and other crimes.
Protests are rare in the North African kingdom. But tensions have been simmering in Zefzafi's home city of Al-Hoceima since October when a fishmonger died after being crushed inside a garbage truck while trying to save his fish confiscated by police.
Protesters also gathered on Monday (May 29) and Tuesday (May 30) demanding the release of Zefzafi and other activists.
The Al-Hoceima protests have been some of the most intense since the 2011 "Arab Spring"-style unrest that prompted the King to devolve some of his powers to an elected parliament, though the palace still holds ultimate authority.
Authorities first tried to arrest Zefzafi after he interrupted a sermon during Friday (May 26) prayers in Al-Hoceima, a government official said. But supporters poured onto the streets and clashed with police as he left the city.
He was detained on Monday (May 29) and transferred with other arrested protesters to the judicial police bureau in Casablanca, MAP said.
Authorities say they have arrested 20 people since Friday. Activists say 28 have been detained. Charges against them include receiving "foreign funding and logistical support to undermine the Kingdom's integrity".
The public anger over the fishmonger's death echoes Tunisia's 2011 uprising when a young street vendor set himself on fire after police confiscated his fruit and vegetables. That uprising swept Tunisian President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali from power and triggered "Arab Spring" revolts across the region.
But protests in Morocco are calling for greater freedoms and reform of the system and not directly against the king. Morocco has a deeply rooted monarchy - the Muslim world's longest-serving dynasty.
The unrest comes at a sensitive time, nevertheless, as the kingdom presents itself as a model of economic stability and gradual change and a safe haven for investment in a region torn by violence, Islamist militancy and upheaval.
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