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Morocco: detained leaders of Hirak Rif say they are ready to negotiate

RABAT, MOROCCO - JUNE 21 : A woman attends a demonstration in support of protests which started in many cities and continue over 7 months on the day of 36th anniversary of 1981 general strike, at Bab El-Had Square in Rabat, Morocco on June 21, 2017. People demand release of detainees and fulfillment of local communities' claims during protests. ( Jalal Morchidi - Anadolu Agency )

The detained leaders of Hirak Rif said they are ready for “negotiations that would preserve the country’s public interest and help resolve the issue in a constructive way.”

This was expressed in a statement issued, Monday, by members of Morocco’s Civil Action of Hirak Rif, a non-governmental committee, who have recently visited Hirak Rif’s activists in Casablanca Prison, according to Civil Action’s statement of which Anadolu News Agency has received a copy.

The statement said that “during more than three hours the delegation met two groups of activists who have been detained in relation to protest movements.”

The statement continued, “The delegation realized that everyone, without exception, is ready to contribute to any serious negotiations that would preserve the country’s public interest and help conclude the crisis in a constructive way.”

Since last October, al-Hoceima (in the north) and other cities and villages in the Rif region have witnessed various protests demanding “development, eliminating marginalization and fighting corruption.”

Read: Morocco slams prominent francophone magazine for “defamatory cover page”

According to the statement, the detainees are demanding that “confidence and goodwill be restored by the concerned main actors, starting with the gradual release of detainees, stopping restrictions on freedoms, stopping arrests and reducing intensive police presence that negatively affects public space and the citizens’ movements.”

The Civil Action of Hirak Rif proposed developing a joint action apparatus related to the development projects that are programmed in the region for tracking, accompaniment and communication.

“All detainees have high morale and good health,” the statement said.

It pointed out that the detainees “insisted again on the legitimate aspect of their protests and demands and on rejecting all charges against them and all attempts to contain and manipulate the case and take their demands out of their legitimate context.”

More than 250 people have been arrested following the protests, including dozens who were sentenced with summary judgement.

Civil Action called on “public authorities to be rational enough, assume their responsibility, and show goodwill in dealing with the case.”

It stressed that this will only be done by “working to realise the legitimate demands and the gradual release of those who have been detained following the peaceful protests.”

Read: Families of detained Hirak Rif members vow to boycott Eid

Protests were resumed on Sunday night in the city of Imzouren, in the north of the country, after they have stopped for some weeks.

King Mohammed VI of Morocco issued a royal amnesty on the occasion of Aid al-Adha for 665 prisoners, though this did not include the detained Rif activists.

On August 10, thousands of people in the city of al Hoceima took part in the funeral ceremonies of an activist who died after being wounded during a demonstration in July.

On 25 August, a Moroccan court sentenced 17 activists in Hirak Rif with sentences that ranged from two months in prison and acquittal to fine.

The charges against the activists ranged from incitement to demonstrations, armed gatherings and unauthorized demonstrations following protests in the northern city of Al-Arwi on 12 August.

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