Rabat - Moderate Rif protests activist El Mortatada Iamrachen, who is prosecuted for allegedly praising terrorism, has urged fellow protesters in Al Hoceima and its nearby towns to accept dialogue with government.
Rabat – Moderate Rif protests activist El Mortatada Iamrachen, who is prosecuted for allegedly praising terrorism, has urged fellow protesters in Al Hoceima and its nearby towns to accept dialogue with government.
Back in May a delegation of government ministers visited Al Hoceima in hopes of initiating a dialogue with protests. While some activists, including Iamrachen, accepted taking part in the dialogue, the core of the protests movement refused.
In a Facebook post on Sunday, the activist said that his release to attend his father’s funeral in Al Hoceima was a positive indication that the state was willing to end the crisis.
After he was freed to attend his father’s funeral, Lamrachen’s lawyer clarified that his client had conditionally released and is still subject to prosecution by the state. The Al Hoceima native was arrested in his home town on June 10 and transferred to Salé where he had been held until his release on Friday.
Given that the former Salafi Imam is well-liked for his moderate political and religious stances and his activism in promoting dialogue between religions and ideologies, when his father died, many social media users called for his right to attend his father’s funeral.
“I ask of God that that the tragedy of my father’s death be the last of our miseries”, he wrote on his personal Facebook page. “I assure you that the solution is possible and that it is in our hands as long as there are wise voices among the people and the elected representatives and officials.”
Iamrachen said that the protesters respected state institutions and were striving to preserve the peacefulness of protests, but that they wanted these institutions to be built on solid grounds of justice, implying what he described as “corruption” in the Interior and Justice departments.
“The Interior and Justice caused several tragedies by their abuse of power and by adopting hasty political stances”. Iamrachen added that the actions of these institutions against the protest movement, “will not easily be erased from the collective memory” of the population of Rif “unless there is a true reconciliation” initiated by the government.
Iamrachen’s arrest earlier in June was due to “fake news” spread by some online media outlets. As Iamrachen explained in a Facebook post prior to his arrest, a journalist called him to ask him if it is true he tried to smuggle weapons from Libya into Morocco in 2011. Iamrachen responded with sarcasm, saying the reports” were true”, but was subsequently arrested. These claims were detrimental to the government because the charges were seen as fabricated.
A recent string of arrests of leading activists in Hirak (the Rif protest movement), have highlighted the toughened stance adopted by the government to deal with the protests that started in October 2016.
Protests in the Rif started as an immediate response to the death of local fish vendor Mouhcine Fikri, who was crushed to death in a garbage truck, but soon became a large-scale movement with political, social and economic aims. The Hirak’s aims include ending the so-called “militarization of Al Hoceima”, building hospitals and universities, and developing employment projects.
The Rif region was at odds with the central government during the reign of King Hassan II, and although King Mohammed VI has sought reconciliation with the area, tension remains.
The government has tried to alleviate tensions by trying to initiate a dialogue and repeatedly stating that the 1958 decree that made the region a military zone was abolished a year later.
The government also stated that major development projects of the region, especially the ones launched by the King in October 2015, are underway. However mistrust between the local population and the government is still prevalent because of the massive security presence in the region and the ongoing detention of activists.
93 people have been prosecuted since the wave of arrests began in May. Sentences ranging from one year and a half in jail to not guilty were issued in Al Hoceima. Dozens of other detainees await trail in Casablanca.
Human rights NGOs, politicians and intellectuals have called on the government to release them and stop the security approach currently used to deal with the problems in Al Hoceima and surrounding areas.
As the crisis continues, many are hoping that Iamrachen’s release really is a positive sign that the stalemate will end soon.