FRI 5 - 6 - 2020
Date: Jun 5, 2018
Source: The Daily Star
Two killed in abandoned lead mine in Morocco
RABAT: Two freelance miners have died in a rockfall in an abandoned Moroccan lead mine in a region hit by protests after the similar deaths of two other miners in December, state news agency MAP said.

“Two people, aged 33 and 42, were killed Sunday after a lead gallery partially collapsed in the commune of Sidi Boubker in the province of Jerada,” it said.

One died at the scene and the other was taken to hospital in the northeastern city of Oujda where he succumbed to his injuries, it added.

Last December, the deaths of two miners in an abandoned mine sparked protests in the impoverished town of Jerada demanding aid and jobs.

Demonstrators clashed with security forces in March after the arrest of several protest leaders.

Residents say the town has been neglected since its coal and lead mines were closed some 20 years ago. Protesters also lambasted the “coal barons,” local notables who are mostly elected officials and have permits to resell coal taken from closed mines.

The government responded at the time by promising to provide alternative jobs in the area and to seal off all abandoned mines.

They also announced new development programs for the region.

Human Rights Watch however accused Morocco’s police Monday of carrying out a weekslong campaign of “repression” against the protestors, including mass arrests and alleged abuse in custody.

Security forces “used excessive force against protesters ... arrested protest leaders and reportedly mistreated them in detention,” New York-based HRW said in a statement.

While mines are formally closed, many continue to eke out a living in shafts informally, and demonstrators have demanded a more viable way to make a living.

“While some protesters threw stones on March 14 and authorities claim they also committed acts of arson, this would not justify the use of indiscriminate and excessive force, or the arrests that began before that date,” HRW said.

“It would also not justify the suppression of peaceful protests or the alleged mistreatment of detainees,” it said.

The NGO said 69 protesters, including three minors, were in prison or pre-trial detention, as of May 31.

The authorities also “recklessly drove a police van into a 16-year-old boy, who was severely injured,” HRW said.

“Police agents broke into houses in Jerada without showing warrants, beat several men upon arrest, and broke doors and windows,” it said.

A Moroccan government official in late April told AFP that allegations of violence and arbitrary arrests in Jerada were “unfounded.”

“The arrests have been carried out in a framework of strict respect for the law under the supervision of the competent prosecutor,” the official said.

There was no immediate response to Monday’s statement.

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