Moroccans continue to protest over death of fishmonger

World Saturday 05/November/2016 19:32 PM
By: Times News Service
Moroccans continue to protest over death of fishmonger

Al Hoceima (Morocco): Thousands of chanting, flag-waving Moroccans protested in a northern city on Friday, keeping up pressure on authorities a week after a fishmonger was crushed to death in a garbage truck in a confrontation with police.
The death of Mouhcine Fikri has prompted a week of street protests. Thousands waved candles, flags in the local Amazigh language and banners.
Fikri's funeral followed by the demonstration was the latest in a series of rallies that started a week ago, packing a downtown square of Al Hoceima, where many see Fikri as a symbol of abuses by officials, corruption and injustice.
"We are very sad, the Makhzen is killing us," the crowd chanted in the Amazigh language before switching to Arabic with "The people want those who killed the martyr."
The rally took place a day after the interior minister played down the unrest, saying the king had already responded to the demands by launching a deep investigation.
Morocco presents itself as a model of stability and gradual reform since 2011.
This week's protests have been peaceful and police have kept a distance in a country where political protests are rare and usually heavily policed.
"Fikri died in a horrific way, and we are out to tell that crime will not go unanswered," said Loubna Obari, waving a candle.
Friday's crowd later marched silently to the police station where Fikri was crushed by a trash truck's compactor when he was trying to stop authorities from destroying 500 kilogrammes (1,100 pounds) of swordfish they say he purchased illegally.
Details of the case emerged first in grainy video shown online where he can be heard screaming. An investigation confirmed how he died, but activists blamed the police for ordering him crushed, a charge officials denied.
But the way in which Fikri died, and details of suspected corruption of officials involved in confiscating his fish, have shocked Moroccans.
"He was stuck in that truck for almost two hours, authorities did not know how to handle it especially with the spontaneous gathering," Souhail Fikri, one of the victim's eldest brothers, told Reuters, at the family home in Imzouren, 15km (10 miles) from Al Hoceima.
Souhail said Fikri's body was still in the garbage truck when he arrived with the father, with nobody capable of explaining what had happened. He said they could clearly see the damage from the crusher when they saw his body in hospital.
The victim was a 31 year-old single salesman, who started his career as a fisherman before launching his own business. The family said they were comforted by protests across the kingdom, and also by officials' attention.
In an attempt to calm tensions, King Mohammed, currently touring Africa, ordered the interior minister to visit the victim's family and present royal condolences.
Moroccan authorities have already charged 11 people with involuntary manslaughter, jailing eight of them, including two interior ministry officials, two local fisheries officials and a veterinary chief.
"This is an opportunity to make things right between Moroccans and their public administration, and hopefully everything will stay under control," Souhail said.