The Moroccan pro-democracy movement known as February 20 has called for the organization of a picnic today near what activists say is a secret detention center located in Temara, in the outskirts of the capital Rabat.
The peaceful gathering was violently broken up by Moroccan anti-riot police which used truncheons to disperse the crowd.
Activists were then chased in the streets of Hay Riad, a neighborhood of the capital Rabat.
Many witnesses I spoke to on the phone expressed disbelief at the disproportionate police deployment and the violent, unwarranted, unprovoked repression of pro-democracy activists, leaving hundreds wounded, some seriously beaten in the head and nose.
The heavy police deployment was aimed at stopping the demonstrators from reaching the alleged secret detention center in Temara.
The Moroccan government denies the existence of “any detention center in the kingdom,” but international as well as local human rights organizations have, since 2002, published extensive reports and testimonies about alleged cases of torture occurring in the center.
A video published recently on Youtube showing the testimony of a political prisoner, Bouchta Charef, an Islamist, seems to have ignited the debate around the center. In it Mr Charef desribes in graphic details the kind of torture and ill-treatment he says he received at the hand of Moroccan interrogators.
For more background on the Temara center, dubbed Guantémara by pro-democracy activists, read this 2004 report from Amnesty, which looks in detail at the alleged practice of torture and secret detention in the centre.
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