Rabat (AFP) – A Moroccan rights group on Monday condemned the authorities for violently dispersing a protest in Rabat against the king’s proposed spending budget for 2013, deemed extravagant by the demonstrators.
The security forces dispersed Sunday’s gathering of several dozen people outside parliament, chasing the activists, many of them from the February 20 protest movement, and beating them with batons, an AFP journalist reported.
“The Moroccan Association for Human Rights condemns the blatant attacks on human rights activists, which expose as false official statements about freedom and democracy,” said the group, whose president, Khadija Ryadi, was among those injured.
It called for an end to “tyranny and corruption” and underlined its support for the demands of the February 20 movement for “equality, freedom and social justice.”
The protesters were voicing their anger at the “huge budget” allocated to the palace under next year’s draft national budget, of nearly 2.6 billion dirhams (€234 million), amid worsening economic hardship.
They also called for the separation of “power and money,” in reference to the pervasive interests of the monarchy in Morocco’s economy.
Morocco has witnessed sporadic social unrest since early last year, spearheaded by the February 20 movement demanding action on a wide range of social grievances and calling in particular for an end to corruption.
After a decade of prosperity, the kingdom has been hit by economic headwinds from Europe, its largest trade partner, lowering growth forecasts this year, amid rising prices, stubbornly high unemployment and simmering social discontent.
Around 30 per cent of Morocco’s youth population are out of work, according to the World Bank, and the frequent protests by jobless graduates demanding employment are often aggressively dispersed by the riot police.