RABAT, Dec 13, 2012 (AFP)
RABAT, Dec 13, 2012 (AFP)
Moroccan Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane said on Thursday that activists belonging to the 20 February protest movement, more than 70 of whom have been jailed according to rights groups, were “not sacred.”
At a news conference with French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, Benkirane was asked about police arresting members of the movement, who held mass protests last year calling for wide-ranging reform, as Arab Spring revolts shook the region.
“The February 20 movement, do you remember how many young people took to the streets? Did we arrest all of them? No. The February 20 youths are not going to become sacred people,” the Moroccan premier said.
“They took to the streets to demand reform. Most of these reforms have been realised, proof of which is that the February 20 movement is no longer visible.”
King Mohammed VI introduced constitutional reforms last year in a bid to contain the mass protests in the north African country, as similar unrest toppled regimes in Tunisia and Egypt.
The reforms paved the way for historic elections, in November 2011, that brought Benkirane’s moderate Islamist Party of Justice and Development to power.
Protesters have continued this year, albeit on a smaller scale, with police sometimes employing violence to disperse them and international rights groups raising concerns about the detention and imprisonment of activists.
“Of course, in politics you never have everything you want. Now, it’s true, there are people getting arrested from time to time. We hear about that,” Benkirane admitted.
“It is not the head of the government who gives the order to arrest them, but I accept responsibility. I am there for that. And we have a justice minister to free those who have been arrested for no reason, or to try people who have committed offenses,” he added.
Justice Minister Mustapha Ramid admitted in September to “several cases of abuse” by police at recent protests, saying the government would review how such protests were dealt with.
“I’m not saying that our system is perfect,” Benkirane argued. “There is no real justice except from God. But on this earth where we are, things are much, much, much better than they once were.”
“How many people have been arrested since the February 20 movement was born? Look at what has happened in other countries… In Morocco things have gone very well compared with elsewhere.”
Earlier, Ayrault praised Morocco for having “undertaken democratic reforms,” and described the kingdom as a “pillar of stability” in the Maghreb region.