Moroccan dies of wounds sustained in protests

AP News
Posted: Jun 02, 2011 5:38 PM
Moroccan dies of wounds sustained in protests

A member of Morocco's main opposition Islamist group died Thursday from wounds sustained during a pro-reform demonstration several days earlier, a spokesman for the movement said.

Khaled al-Amari, 30, died in a hospital after being beaten at a protest in the southern city of Safi on Sunday, part of a weekly series of demonstrations calling for greater freedoms in the North African monarchy, Mohammed Aghnaj, of the Justice and Charity movement, told The Associated Press.

Al-Amari is the seventh person to die since anti-government protests began in Morocco three months ago, he added.

"He was beaten in several places and after he went home he began to really feel the effects," Aghnaj said.

The state news agency, MAP, however, quoted local authorities, which denied his death was related to the beating he received in the demonstrations.

Al-Amari died "after cardiac arrest resulting from pneumonia at the Mohammed V hospital where he was taken in the morning," the news agency quoted an anonymous government official as saying.

The royal prosecutor at the Safi court of appeals has ordered an investigation into the cause of death and an autopsy will be carried out, the report added.

The Islamist organization, known by its Arabic name al-Adl wal Ihsan, is calling for an Islamic state in Morocco and is banned from politics. The group provided photos of the victim showing him battered and bruised, as well as a picture of his death certificate.

Morocco's February 20 movement, a loose coalition of organizations spanning the political spectrum from left wing activists to conservative Islamists, has been staging regular protests calling for constitutional reforms to lessen the power of Morocco's absolute monarch. It wrote about al-Amari's death on its Facebook page.

On March 9, King Mohammed VI announced the formation of a constitutional committee to draw up amendments to address many of the complaints put forward by the February 20 movement.

Those recommendations will be announced some time this month, but the youth activists who staged the demonstrations that helped spark the reform movement refused to meet with the constitutional committee because it was just appointed by the king.

Security forces have demonstrated a new zero tolerance policy for demonstrations by February 20 activists. For the past three weeks, any gatherings by the group have been violently dispersed by club wielding police, resulting in dozens of wounded.

The London-based rights group, Amnesty International, on Thursday condemned the use of force by Moroccan police against protesters.

"What we are witnessing is a draconian response to people merely exercising their right to freedom of expression and assembly," the statement said, adding that scores of protesters have been assaulted by security forces in recent weeks.