Rabat – Government spokesperson Mustapha El Khalfi has revealed that 176 people from the Hirak protest movement in the Rif are currently under preventive detention.
El Khalfi explained during a press conference on Thursday that 63 people are being prosecuted in the same case in provisional liberty while charges have been dropped against 21 others.
The new figures show a rise in the number of Rif detainees, at least as far as government numbers areconcerned.
On June 22, El Khalfi said the number of prosecuted Rif protesters and activists under preventive detention is 93, denying reports which claimedthey were around 200.
A massive wave of arrests of protesters followed the clashes between protesters and riot police in Al Hoceima on May 26 when security forces began operationsto arrest Nasser Zafzafi, the leading Hirak activistwho eventuallyplaceddetentions in Casablanca.
Zafzafi was accused of “obstructing freedom of worship” following his interruption of a Friday prayer sermon that he said was critical of the Hirak. Dozens of other activists were arrested afterwards as tension grew in Al Hoceima and surrounding towns.
Releasing the detainees has been the main demand of the population in Rif and political, human rights and civil society groups supporting Hirak.Claims of torture by police made by several detainees have been investigated by the National Council for Human Rights (CNDH).
On Monday leaked excerpts from the investigationpublished on Barlamane, a news website reportedly with ties with security officials, confirmed torture allegations.
The report was not meant to be made public. Barlamaneattackedthe CNDH, claiming the state human rights body is serving agendas of people trying to escalate the crisis in Rif after the situation had started calming down.
The General Directorate of National Security (DGSN), Morocco’s national security agency, issued a statement denying all accusations protesters were tortured during their arrest and detention in police stations.
CNDH released a communiqué saying the conclusions of the report are not final, criticizing the unnamed party which leaked the document.
During his press conference, El Khalfi avoided responding to the controversy over CNDH report.
He also declined commenting on another controversy letter to published letter attributed to Zafzafi.The letter was published on Thursday by his lawyer Mohammed Ziane.
El Khalfi said he would not add anything to the communiqué release today by the Penitentiary Administration which denied the letter was written by Zafzafi.