RABAT (Reuters) - Dozens of people were injured in Morocco’s biggest city, Casablanca, on Sunday when riot police used truncheons to break up a rally by several hundred demonstrators demanding reforms, witnesses said.
“This was a peaceful rally, we don’t know what made the police attack a peaceful protest,” Ghizlaine Benameur, an opposition activist who took part in the rally, told Reuters by telephone from Casablanca.
“This has been their most violent intervention since the start of the protests last month,” she said.
Spokesmen at Morocco’s interior ministry could not immediately be reached for comment.
The demonstrators had gathered in Casablanca’s main King Mohammed Square for the rally, which organisers said was no different from demonstrations they had held every week for the past month.
Two Casablanca residents confirmed that riot police broke up the protest with truncheons. “I live in the city centre, it looks like it is under siege,” said one resident who did not want to be identified.
“Dozens of protesters ended up with broken ribs, fractured arms and concussion,” as a result of truncheon blows by the police, said Ahmed Mediani, a protester who was briefly arrested.
Most analysts say Morocco, with its reformist monarch and an approach to dissent that is tolerant by regional standards, is among the countries least likely to be hit by the wave of unrest sweeping the Arab world.
King Mohammed announced on Wednesday he had appointed a committee to draft a reform of the constitution widening the prerogatives of elected officials, and ensuring officials are accountable and the judiciary independent.
His plan calls for the constitutional reform to be submitted to a referendum.
Leftist opposition parties and the banned Justice and Charity Islamist opposition group have said the proposal falls short of their expectations.
They demand that the 47-year-old monarch reign without ruling, dismiss the government and dissolve parliament.