A Week of Violence in the Moroccan City of Taza
Last week, in the northeastern city of Taza, local media reported clashes between demonstrators and security forces. The tensions started on January the 4th, when students organized protests to claim social and economic grievances. However, the demonstrations turned into clashes. On Wedensday, February 1st, the demonstrators organized a sit-in in front of the Taza tribunal, demanding the release of 5 protesters arrested on January the 4th. The protestsdegenerated (in French) into riots throughout the city with burning cars. Around 200 were injured, including police and protestors. On Friday 3rd, another march was organized in the direction of the Tribunal, to demand the release of the protesters arrested on February 1st, subsequently referred as “Black Wednesday.” The Minister of Communication, Mustapha El Khalfi, stated (in French) that “the right to peaceful protest is guaranteed by law, but the occupation of public spaces and harms the interests of citizens and public property violate the laws,” the Minister added that the government would take measures to enforce the law and ensure security.
On Sunday, Morocco’s King Mohammed VI issued pardons to 458 Islamists who rights groups say were unfairly jailed. Each year, Moroccan King would traditionally pardon detainees on Muslim holiday Mawlid. This year he has chosen to pardon Islamists, among them leaders of the Salafia Jihadia group charged for helping the 2003 suicide bombings in Casablanca which killed 45 people. The pardon is seen by the public as an attempt to ease tensions, led by Prime Minster Abellillah Benkirane, as authorities were accused of unduly targeting Islamist after the attack. Benkirane is the newly elected leader of the moderate Islamic party for Justice and Development (PJD after the November 2011 elections.