On Sunday, national and international news sources reported the arrest of two leaders of the ongoing protests, while the public prosecutor at the Oujda Court of Appeal says that the arrest “has no connection with the events in the city of Jerada.”
The alleged activists, Amine Mkallech and Mustapha Idanine, were arrested on Saturday and were still under detention on Sunday, relatives said. In a statement sent to Maghreb Arab Press (MAP), the prosecutor said that the arrest of Mustapha Idanine resulted from a traffic accident.
“After investigations conducted by the judicial police, it turned out that this was a traffic accident committed by the individual in question on March 8, 2018 at 01:00 a.m. and that the inquiry is still ongoing,” said the statement.
The state-owned news agency, however, did not reveal any information about the arrest of the second alleged activist.
Protests erupted last December after two brothers were killed in a tunnel accident, 85 meters below ground. The third victim was killed under the same circumstances, while the most recent victim was killed after being shocked by a compressor in the abandoned Sidi Boubker mine in the province of Jerada, sparking another wave of protests denouncing regional social inequalities.
Since 2017, King Mohammed VI has been urging the government to reshuffle the current development model, as it failed to “reduce social and inter-regional disparities,” said the King in a message addressed to the 3rd parliamentary forum on social justice, which took place on February 19 in Rabat.
The monarch also stressed the importance of giving the social disparities issue a special consideration in order to respond to citizens’ growing demands and needs.
The death of the most recent victim came only after the government spokesperson Mustapha El Khalfi said that the cabinet is “currently at an advanced stage to honor its commitments and implement them in the province of Jerada.”
After the weekly cabinet meeting on Thursday, El Khalfi told the press that “efforts on the ground [have] resulted in the implementation of a number of measures since the visits made to the province by several ministers.”
On February 10, Morocco’s Head of Government Saad Eddine El Othmani visited the city of Oujda with a delegation of officials and ministers to meet regional and local leaders and discuss measures to support the economic and social conditions of Jerada’s residents.
During the meeting, El Othmani promised the immediate suspension of illegal mining activities in the region.