Morocco's government has said it will discuss protests in the northern city of of El Hoceima after criticism of arrests of demonstrators. Morocco's northern Rif region continues to pose a challenge to the new government.
At a cabinet meeting Prime Minister Saad-Eddine Al-Othmani discussed the ongoing unrest in the northern Rif region of the country, saying it "is at center of the government's preoccupations," the official MAP news agency reported.
El Othmani said the interior and justice ministers had assured him the authorities were acting "in respect of human rights" in demonstrations in El Hoceima, in the mainly ethnically Berber region. This after reports of police brutality.
Meanwhile, a general strike was called on Thursday in Al-Hoceima, with nearly all of stores in the city center shuttered after thousands of people demonstrated in the population 56,000 city for a sixth night in a row.
The six political parties that make up the parliamentary majority issued a statement insisting on respect for the right to demonstrate and urging more "positive" government interaction with protesters.
A wider movement is demanding more development and says it is fighting corruption, repression and unemployment.
Parliament will hold a special session on Tuesday over the tensions in El Hoceima, government spokesman Mustapha Khalfi told The Associated Press.
Death of a fish vendor
El Hoceima has seen protests since the death of a fish vendor last October. The man was crushed by a garbage compactor while trying to save fish that officials had confiscated.
The arrest sparked protests in cities around Morocco. Authorities have violently dispersed demonstrations in Casablanca, Rabat, Marrakech and Taza.
Protest leader Nasser Zefzafi was arrested on Monday after a three-day manhunt and faces charges of threatening state security, according to a statement from the El Hoceima royal prosecutor.
Some 40 other activists also have been arrested and 32 are facing criminal investigation, the prosecutor said. They face trial next Tuesday. Seven suspects were released on bail and another seven were freed without charge.
Between 2,000 and 3,000 protesters again took to the streets of Al-Hoceima, shouting slogans such as "We are all Nasser Zefzafi" and "Corrupt state."
State media and politicians have remained largely silent about the events, but the local branches of three parties including the ruling Justice and Development Party (PJD) issued a joint statement warning of a "serious situation" and criticizing the response of the authorities.
jbh/bw (AP, AFP)