Moroccan Government Prosecutes Dozens Arrested During Riots
RABAT, Morocco (AP) _ Authorities began trials Wednesday for a prominent labor leader and dozens of other suspects arrested in riots that broke out during a general strike last week.
The labor official, Mohamed Titna Alaoui, regional secretary in Fez for the General Union of Moroccan Workers, could face a five-year prison. He is charged with inciting rebellion and spreading false information. Lawyers from three human rights groups are representing him.
Rioting broke out in Fez and other cities on Friday during a one-day, nationwide general strike for higher wages. The strike was called by Alaoui’s federation and another labor group.
The government says five people were killed, but unions and human rights activists put the death toll at more than 30. One of the charges against Alaoui is that he gave exaggerated information about the number of deaths.
About 200 people were arrested in Fez during the riots, and officials said 52 of them would appear in court this week. Dozens more have begun appearing in court in Rabat and Tangier, where disturbances also took place.
On Monday, Prime Minister Azzedine Laraki proposed that the rioting be investigated by a commission of executive branch officials and lawmakers from various parties. The opposition has rejected the plan, saying the commission should be completely independent of the executive branch.
The severity of the rioting has been widely attributed to poverty in Morocco’s cities. Many rioters were young people who, according to opposition leaders, are frustrated by the lack of job opportunities.