May 23, 2011 / 8:47 PM / 6 years ago

UPDATE 1-Morocco says Islamists, leftists stirring protests

* Govt: Islamists, leftists sow unrest through protests

* Amnesty urges investigation into May 22 events

* February 20 Movement says will not be drawn into violence

(Updates with Amnesty and February 20 spokesman)

By Souhail Karam

RABAT, May 23 (Reuters) - Morocco said on Monday that Islamists and extreme leftists were seeking to spread unrest under the guise of democracy protests, after police reacted violently to banned nationwide demonstrations.

Rights group Amnesty International urged Rabat to conduct an independent investigation into allegations of assault by police during Sunday's protests, while protest organisers said they would not be drawn into violent confrontation with authorities.

Communications Minister Khalid Naciri, who is also the government spokesman, spoke after riot police on Sunday wounded dozens of activists in the February 20 Movement who defied the ban in the capital Rabat and major cities such as Casablanca.

"They don't want democratic reform," he told Reuters. "Authorities had to deal with people who use the February 20 Movement to serve the agenda of three groups. Their goal is to kill democracy. The February 20 Movement needs to be cautious."

The violence appeared to signal a tougher government line against the protest movement, which has become more defiant after demonstrations started in February but has yet to attract mass public support. [ID:nLDE74L0NK]

The protests were in response to a call by the February 20 Movement, a loose youth-led network from various ideological backgrounds, mostly leftist and Islamist. Many are affiliated to authorised political parties.

Relying mostly on the Internet, the group is pressing King Mohammed to establish a parliamentary monarchy, enforce accountability and grant the judiciary full independence.

"Of 100 protests that took place in Morocco on Sunday, we have recorded problems in five cities: Rabat, Casablanca, Tangier, Fes and Oujda. All the others took place peacefully," Naciri said.

Naciri did not detail the problems, which he said were caused by members of the banned Islamist group Justice and Charity, the leftist Democratic Approach party and the Salafist Jihadi group, which has been subject of a government security crackdown since suicide attacks in Casablanca in 2003.

In a statement, Amnesty International said: "Security forces violently broke-up the demonstrations ... chased protesters, beat them with truncheons and kicked them."

It urged authorities to conduct "a full, independent and impartial investigation into the allegations of physical assaults ... and that any officials responsible are held accountable."

Najib Chawki, from the February 20 Movement, said the police intervention on Sunday was an attempt by the state to draw the movement into "full-blown escalation."

"We will not fall for that. We will continue to protest peacefully until all of our demands are met," he said.

In response to the protests, the king announced in March that he would amend the constitution to allow greater democracy and more independence for the judiciary. A commission is due to announce a draft constitution next month. (Editing by Adam Tanner)

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