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Thursday, June 15, 2006

Morocco launches crackdown on opposition

ISN SECURITY WATCH (Thursday, 15 June 2006: 12.41 CET) – Moroccan security forces have launched a series of arrest raids targeting members of the Islamic Al Adl wa al Ihsane (Justice and Charity) opposition movement.

Al Adl officials said Wednesday that police had rounded up 88 members of their organization, Morocco's largest opposition movement, bringing to over 500 the number of party activists arrested since late May.

The arrests come after the party launched an "open doors" campaign to attract new members from outside its traditional recruitment centers, mosques and universities.

Some of those arrested had been beaten, the group alleged. Most were released quickly.

Al Adl spokesperson Fathallah Arslane, told the Reuters news agency that 45 members of the organization had been arrested in the town of Bouarfa in the country's northeast on Tuesday night. The activists were freed in the early hours of the morning, he said.

The deputy leader of the movement, Mohamed Abadi, was amongst 43 party members detained in raids in Nador and Oujda, also in the northeast.

Only one of the detainees remains in custody though Abadi and two others will face prosecutors at the end of the month, Reuters reports.

Interior Minister Chakib Benmoussa explained the crackdown was required because Al Adl's unauthorized activity had put it "outside the logic of the law" and because "it is the duty of the state to enforce scrupulously the law".

"The authorities want to muzzle us," Arslane said.

The founder of the 250,000-strong movement, Abdessalam Yassine was under house arrest for ten years, up until 2000, for challenging the powers of the monarchy and the king's status as Commander of the Faithful – the pre-eminent religious leader for Moroccan Muslims.

Al Adl favors the imposition of sharia law and says it is opposed to violence. The movement rejects participation in the Moroccan political system in the absence of constitutional change.

It is currently campaigning for the transfer of greater powers to the prime minister and for limitations to be imposed on the power of the monarchy.
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