Moroccan police among 11 investigated over man crushed in rubbish truck

Prosecutors act to quell unrest after thousands take to the streets to protest against death of Mouhcine Fikri

Eleven people, including two police officers, are to face a judicial investigation over the case of a man crushed to death in a rubbish compactor, prosecutors in Morocco have said.

The death of Mouhcine Fikri, a 31-year-old fish wholesaler, in the back a of rubbish truck on Friday night in the port city of Hoceima sent tens of thousands of demonstrators out to the streets in some of the some of the country’s most serious protests since the Arab spring in 2011 and prompted the intervention of King Mohammed VI.

The decision by prosecutors to act so swiftly, which means the 11 will be brought before a magistrate on allegations of involuntary homicide, came as demonstrations continued for a fourth day and signalled the wish of the Moroccan authorities to defuse the situation.

Fikri’s death was filmed on a phone and widely shared on social media. He had been stopped by police with 500kg of swordfish – caught illegally out of season – and had been trying to rescue his merchandise from the lorry when he was caught in the crusher. There have been accusations that a police officer had ordered the machinery to be turned on.

Moroccans protest after fisherman crushed to death in rubbish truck

The Moroccan government was quick to condemn the incident, promising a swift investigation to “determine the exact circumstances of the tragedy and punish those responsible”.

“No one had the right to treat him like this ... We cannot accept officials acting in haste, anger or in conditions that do not respect people’s rights,” the interior minister, Mohamed Hassad, said.

A statement issued by investigators suggested there was no evidence that any order to commit violence against Fikri had been given by any of those involved in the incident.

Protesters in Hoceima, in Morocco’s Rif region, and in other cities including Casablanca, Fez and the capital, Rabat, had taken up the Fikri case as emblematic of official abuses – known as “hogra” – that led some people to blame royal institutions.

The protests have erupted at a sensitive moment as the kingdom prepares to host Cop 22, the 2016 United Nations climate change conference, in November and the prime minister begins to form a coalition government after elections this month.

Smaller protests also took place on Monday evening in Rabat, the eastern city of Oujda and the central town of Settat.


Peter Beaumont

The GuardianTramp

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