Rabat – The city of Rabat convened NGOs activists and political representatives, calling for the release of detained Jerada protesters on Friday.
A series of demonstrations ignited across Jerada province in recent months, in order to decry social disparities and mourn the death of local miners, who died while working in abandoned mine shafts.
Tensions mounted on March 14, after a clash between security forces and protesters. Several protesters were arrested for causing injuries among law enforcement and for participating in unauthorized protests.
In a press conference held to discuss the situation in Jerada, human right activists and politicians denounced the “social repression” of demonstrations, according to Spanish news agency EFE.
Mustafa Brahma of the far-left party, La Voie Démocratique (The Democratic Way), criticized the “systematic repression” of protest movements taking place across the country.
Brahma told EFE that “this crackdown will complicate the situation if the authorities do not provide pragmatic responses to the social demands of citizens.” He added that the number of Jerada event detainees has reached 70.
Lawyers of the detained protesters told EFE that 54 individuals, including seven minors will be presented before the court for involvement in “assaulting police, organizing unauthorized demonstrations and destroying public property.”
Morocco’s government is firm on its decision to ban unauthorized protests. In cabinet meeting held this month in Rabat, officials emphasized that security forces have the unconditional right to intervene to enforce the law in accordance with legal provisions in the region.
However, Morocco’s Government Spokesperson Mustapha El Khalfi stressed that peaceful demonstrations are allowed as long as demonstrators respect the law, which prohibits acts of violence and vandalism.
Authorities have been pledging development reforms in the province for the past several months. Earlier this month, the secretary-general of the region’s prefecture, Abderrazak El Gourji, told French news agency AFP that the city of Jerada has more than 3,200 mine shafts, 200 to 300 of which are active. “The others are abandoned and present a clear danger–they will all be closed,” he said.
Renowned Moroccan politicians and international NGOs, including Amnesty International, condemned the intervention of law enforcement in the region.
In a publication made public on March 16, Amnesty International called on Moroccan security forces to “stop using excessive force and intimidating peaceful protests,” adding that “five police trucks drove into a crowd of protestors on 14 March,” when clashes erupted between law enforcement and demonstrators.
In response to Amnesty’s accusations, El Khalfi said that “what was published by Amnesty International concerning the Jerada events lacks fairness and does not include real data.”
El Khalfi added that Morocco is offering people the right to demonstrate “within the framework of the law and, similarly, the public forces have also the right to intervene in the strict respect of the law provisions.”