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Moroccan security forces target and assault certain protesters during workers' march

Workers march through downtown Casablanca, Morocco on 6 April 2014
Workers march through downtown Casablanca, Morocco on 6 April 2014

(AP Photo/Abdeljalil Bounhar)

Eight protesters belonging to the "February 20" movement were arrested by Moroccan security forces on 6 April 2014 during their participation in a workers' march in Casablanca.

The march was organised by the Moroccan Workers' Union (UMT), the Democratic Confederation of Labor (CDT) and the Democratic Federation of Labor (FDT) to protest the government's economic policies. The arrest of members of the "February 20" movement was denounced by the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) which reported that Moroccan security forces solely targeted those that belonged to that particular movement.

Established in Morocco in 2011, coincidently with the outbreak of revolutions in other Arab countries, the movement calls for political and constitutional reforms. Moroccan authorities continuously undermine the movement through abuse and prosecution.

During the demonstration, security forces assaulted the section of the march dedicated to the "February 20" movement and violently beat the protesters, leaving many of them injured. Those arrested were Amin Lekebia, Hamza Hodi, Ayoub Boudad, Yousef Helal, Hakim Suroukh, Haraq Mohamed, Fouad Al-Baz, and A'aras Mustafa.

They were referred on 7 April to the Attorney-General of the King's Court of First Instance in Ain Sebaa; their lawyers have been prevented from communicating with them. On 8 April, they were scheduled to be sent to the Prosecutor-General.

"Moroccan authorities try to suppress voices of dissent using excessive force and arbitrary arrest, instead of making economic reforms that could improve workers' conditions. They also perpetuate their targeting of the "February 20" movement in particular, fearing that the movement's influence might spread, which is a clear violation of freedom of expression," said ANHRI.

The arrest of eight members of the movement is part of a systematic campaign launched by the authorities against the group, said ANHRI adding that it is an attempt to distort the image of the movement in the eyes of the public.

ANHRI calls on the Moroccan authorities to release the detained activists and discontinue the abuse used by security forces against activists and protesters. It also urges them to respect freedom of expression and to suspend the violent dispersal of protests, as such procedures reflect their complete refusal to make economic and social changes.

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