Rif, Morocco, Protests: Protest Leader Alleges Police Beat Him

(Tunis) – Police arrested and severely beat the de facto leader of ongoing social protests in Morocco’s Rif region, Human Rights
Watch and Amnesty International said today, based on an account the
protest leader gave his lawyer. Authorities are investigating Nasser Zefzafi, the protest leader, on grave charges, including one that carries the death penalty and some that appear political in nature.
Zefzafi, 38, is the best-known of at least 127 protesters and activists jailed during a police crackdown on the mostly peaceful demonstrations in northern Morocco that began in late May, 2017. Zefzafi requested a medical exam to document the abuse when he appeared before a prosecutor on June 5. But the request has yet to be fulfilled, said Abdelaziz Nouaydi, one of Zefzafi’s lawyers, raising concerns about the court’s compliance with its duty to investigate allegations of police violence.

“Moroccan authorities should investigate the credible allegations of police violence against Zefzafi and refrain from filing any charges that stem from peaceful speech or protest,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director of Human Rights Watch. “At this stage, the case looks like it’s more about throwing the book at a protest leader than punishing criminal behavior.”

Police arrested Zefzafi on May 29 in the village of Douar Lahrech, about 50 kilometers from al-Hoceima, the Rif’s main city. His arrest came three days after he had interrupted the Friday sermon at a mosque in al-Hoceima to defend the Rif protest movement after the imam, a state employee, had criticized it in his sermon.

At about 6:30 a.m. on May 29, a dozen police from the National Brigade of the Judiciary Police (BNPJ) broke down the door of the house where Zefzafi and two other activists, Fahim Ghattas and Mohamed Haki, were staying, Zefzafi told Nouaydi, on June 12 in Casablanca’s Oukacha prison. The police broke furniture and windows, and assaulted the three men even though they offered no resistance, Zefzafi said. He said he had a 1.5-centimeter cut on his scalp, another one below his left eye, and bruises on his back. Source


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