RABAT, March 18 (Reuters) - Human rights group Amnesty International on Friday urged Moroccan security forces to avoid using violence during nationwide protests to demand more democracy scheduled for Sunday.
The protests are organised by the February 20 Movement, a youth-led movement inspired by pro-democracy revolts in Tunisia and Egypt. Tens of thousands of people in more than 50 towns and cities joined their first protest on Feb. 20. [ID:nLDE71J06Q]
"Thousands are expected to take to the streets (Sunday) across the country to demand political and human rights reform, but there are fears the authorities may resort to heavy-handed tactics to quell the protests," Amnesty said in a statement.
Dozens of people were injured on March 13 in Morocco's biggest city, Casablanca, when riot police used truncheons to break up a peaceful rally by several hundred demonstrators demanding reforms. Several prominent political figures and reporters have also been beaten. [ID:nLDE72C0KZ]
Earlier this month, King Mohammed announced he had appointed a committee to draft a reform of the constitution, ensure officials are accountable, the judiciary independent and protect freedoms.
"The unnecessary acts of violence witnessed last weekend are a disturbing regression and make a mockery of the Moroccan King's promise a few days earlier to undertake fundamental reform and uphold human rights," said Philip Luther, Amnesty's Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
"Moroccan authorities must uphold the right of protestors to express their views and demands in a peaceful manner and instruct security forces not to resort to unjustified or unnecessary force to disperse demonstrations, in line with Morocco's international human rights obligations and the King's promises," said Luther. (Reporting by Souhail Karam; editing by Jon Boyle)