RABAT (Reuters) - Moroccan security services used truncheons to disperse a pro-democracy protest on the southern outskirts of the capital Rabat on Sunday, injuring several people, a Reuters reporter at the scene said.
Dozens of protesters belonging to the February 20 anti-government movement were attempting to hold a protest picnic in front of what they allege is a secret government detention centre where Islamists are held.
Anti-riot police chased the protesters before the rally could begin, beating some with long rubber truncheons. A Reuters reporter said one man had been hit on the nose and a woman was hit in the stomach. There was no word on arrests.
“This is the latest in a series of violent interventions by the security forces which shows that the authorities no longer tolerate the group’s peaceful protest,” said Nizar Benmate of the February 20 movement.
The government’s chief spokesman, Khalid Naciri, was quoted as saying by the private Atlantic radio station that the protest was broken up because it had been banned.
He also denied there was a secret detention facility in the vicinity, saying the building singled out by the protesters was a local government administrative office.
Moroccan officials deny allegations from opposition groups and some human rights campaigners that they run secret detention centres and say all detainees are treated in strict accordance with the law.
The authorities had announced on Saturday that the protest on the outskirts of Rabat was banned. Another protest set for Sunday evening in Morocco’s commercial capital, Casablanca, has also been banned.
Reporting by Souhail Karam; Writing by Matthew Bigg and Christian Lowe; Editing by Mark Trevelyan