Moroccan police 'arrest Hoceima protest-leader' after interrupting Mosque sermon

Moroccan police 'arrest Hoceima protest-leader' after interrupting Mosque sermon
The Moroccan king's persecutor ordered the arrest of Nasser Zefzafi after interrupting a Friday sermon asking if Mosques were built to worship God, or as a government propaganda outlet
2 min read
29 May, 2017
Armed police facing demonstration against corruption and repression in the Moroccan city of al-Hoceima [Getty]
The Moroccan authorities have arrested Nasser Zefzafi, a protest leader in Al-Hoceima city in the restive northern Rif region, after he interrupted an imam's Friday sermon, calling for change in the kingdom. 

An AFP Arabic news alert, quoting a Moroccan government force, said he was arrested on Monday morning.

The king's prosecutor toward the latter hours of Friday had announced "the opening of an investigation and the arrest of Nasser Zefzafi" for “forming a group of people to obstruct worshippers in the Mohammed V Mosque in Al-Hoceima".

Zefzari interrupted the Mosque’s Imam, calling him a “liar” and questioned whether Mosques in Morocco were built to worship God, or as a propaganda outlet for the powerful.

He then heavily criticised “those who want to see Rif succumb”, meaning the Moroccan authorities.

Evening protests in Al-Hoceima, a city of some 56,000 residents, were held Friday and Saturday, with demonstrators clashing with police. Three members of the security forces were reported to have been seriously hurt Friday.

After the arrest warrant was called, Zefzari posted a video on his Facebook account on his rooftop surrounded by his supporters proclaiming that he is not afraid of his pending arrest.

“Let them come if they want to arrest me,” he shouted.

“I have won. Want to know why? Seven months and I haven’t picked up a weapon, I haven’t stolen, I haven’t robbed the government and I haven’t stolen from the poor,” he said as he was met with loud cheers.

Hundreds of mainly young demonstrators gathered in two neighborhoods of the city again Sunday night, chanting "The state is corrupt!" and "We are all Zefzafi!"

Protests continue in the Berber dominated Rif region but the new flare up is traced back to October 2016 when Mouhcine Fikri, a fishmonger in Al-Hoceima, tried to prevent government backed city authorities from destroying his merchandise, swordfish, which are banned during the season.

The 31-year-old was crushed as he was run over by a rubbish truck while he was protesting. A photo of him circulated on the social networks, showing him dead, his head and his arm surpassing the compacting mechanism.

The Rif region began to instigate calls for justice for Fikri, in a movement which quickly evolved into a grassroots movement demanding jobs and economic development.

Nasser Zefzafi soon emerged as the leader of the Al-Hirak al-Shaabi, or "Popular Movement".