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Thousands demand justice for crushed Morocco fishmonger

November 5, 2016

Huge crowds of demonstrators have taken to the streets of Morocco, demanding justice for a fish seller who was crushed in a rubbish truck. His gruesome death sparked nationwide outrage.

Silent march in Al-Hoceima
Image: picture-alliance/abaca/A. Khattabi

Moroccan fishmonger Mouhcine Fikri was accidentally killed last Friday in the northern city of Al-Hoceima as he tried to stop authorities from destroying 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds) of swordfish, which they say he purchased illegally.

The 31-year-old's death in the long-neglected Rif region triggered outrage in other cities including the Moroccan capital Rabat.

"Mouhcine, we won't abandon you!" protesters cried in Al-Hoceima, according to footage streamed live on social media. Demonstrators were also seen holding up photos of Fikri and waving Berber flags.

Fikri's case "concerns all Moroccans suffering from oppression," one woman cried out through a loudspeaker.

"We have come to protest against unfairness, against a corrupt system," she said.

As night fell on Friday, a silent, candlelit march also proceeded through the city.

Manslaughter charges

Morroco's King Mohammed VI, who is currently touring Africa, was quick to order a "thorough and exhaustive investigation" into Fikri's death. In a rare gesture of conciliation the monarch also ordered the interior minister to visit the victim's family and offer royal condolences.

On Tuesday, the Moroccan Interior Ministry announced that 11 people - including two local security agents and the head of the local fisheries department - would face charges including manslaughter and other offenses relating to the death.

Protests in Morocco on October 30
Thousands of Moroccans attended Fikri's funeral last SundayImage: Getty Images/AFP/F. Senna

It remains unclear who activated the truck's crushing mechanism that killed Fikri.

Thousands attended Fikri's funeral in Al-Hoceima on Sunday after an image of his body - head and arm sticking out from under the lorry's crusher - went viral on social media.

Another national march is planned for Rabat on Sunday.

Stability and reform

Since the 2011 reform protests, Morocco has presented itself as a model of stability and gradual improvement. In a region where jihadist violence and political turmoil have become the norm, the north African country also remains a Western partner in the war against Islamist militants.

The public anger surrounding Fikri's death echoes the 2011 uprising in Tunisia following the self-immolation of a street vendor, protesting police abuses. His actions triggered a revolt that ousted Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali and prompted the start of the Arab Spring.

Unlike Tunisia, however, Morocco's ongoing protests and those in 2011 never directly challenged the deep-rooted monarchy - the Muslim world's longest-serving dynasty. Instead, they continue to demand reforms and an end to abuses by officals.

ksb/kl (Reuters, AFP, AP)