The death of a Moroccan fishmonger who was crushed inside a garbage truck as he attempted to retrieve fish that had been confiscated by police has caused widespread outrage resulting in protests across several cities in the country.
Fishmonger Mouhcine Fikri on Friday was reportedly found with several boxes of swordfish, which he had bought at the port. The sale of swordfish has been banned by local authorities in this season. The fish was confiscated by police and, according to local media reports, the fishmonger leaped inside the truck used by police to destroy the fish and became crushed.
A gruesome image of Mr Fikri seen with his head and arm protruding from underneath the machine’s crushing mechanism went viral on social media, as did angry posts against “Hogra”, a Maghreb term referring to official abuse and injustice.
Moroccan authorities have since vowed to investigate the cause of Mr Fikri’s death, the circumstances of which are still unclear.
On Sunday protests and rallies took place across a number of cities, from Al-Hoceima and other towns in the Rif region, to Casablanca and the capital of Rabat, where people chanted “Mohcine was murdered, Makhzen is to blame”. They had been organised by members of the February 20 movement, which was responsible for organising demonstrations during the 2011 uprising.
Earlier that day thousands had attended the funeral of Mr Fikri in Al-Hoceima and around 2,000 people protested in the town afterwards. People were seen carrying pictures of Mr Fikri and Berber flags.
“I have never seen such a crowd in the last few years, since 2011 at least,” Houssin Lmrabet, an activist taking part in the protest, told Reuters. “Everyone feels crushed by that garbage truck here.”
The fishmonger’s death has echoes of the start of the 2011 uprising in Tunisia, in which a series of protests were sparked after a fruit and vegetable seller set himself alight when authorities confiscated his produce.
Morocco’s police force, the DGSN, has denied accusations by activists that authorities ordered garbage men to crush Mr Fikri, and the country’s interior minister Mohamed Hassad said an investigation will be held to “determine the exact circumstances of the tragedy and punish those responsible”.
Mr Hassad was also ordered by King Mohamed to visit the fishmonger’s family to present royal condolences in a further attempt to quell tensions. The King is currently on tour in Africa but has ordered an exhaustive investigation that will result in the “prosecution of whoever is responsible,” according to the interior ministry.
Additional reporting by agencies
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