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Sunday, 10 December, 2000, 17:24 GMT
Moroccan police arrest rights activists
King Mohammed VI speaking on TV
The king pledged to bolster human rights
By Nick Pelham in Rabat

Riot police in the Moroccan capital Rabat have for a second day broken up demonstrations called to mark United Nations Human Rights Day.

After beating back human rights demonstrators on Saturday, security forces on Sunday dispersed hundreds of Islamists. The protesters were calling on King Mohammed VI to fulfil his promises to unveil a new concept of authority.

The scenes were the most violent in the Moroccan capital since King Mohammed VI ascended the throne last year.

Riot police clubbed hundreds of Islamist protesters who had gathered outside parliament in defiance of an Interior Ministry ban. Scores of protesters were herded onto buses and beaten again.

'Hundreds of arrests'

A spokesman for the Islamists' group, Justice and Charity, said there had been similar scenes in seven other cities across the kingdom. He said there had been hundreds of arrests.

Moroccan women's demonstration
Many Islamists oppose women's demands for more rights

It was the second clash outside the Moroccan parliament in two days.

On Saturday night, riot police beat back hundreds of human rights activists. They arrested 40 protesters, including eight women and the head of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights.

The crackdown began hours after King Mohammed VI gave a televised address to coincide with UN Human Rights Day, in which he promised to build a constitutional and democratic monarchy.

But observers say that following a brief respite, a climate of fear is now returning to the kingdom.

In recent weeks, foreign journalists have been expelled and newspapers banned, and once again in Morocco it seems that the security forces are increasingly dictating policy.

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07 Aug 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
Islamists take to the beaches
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30 Jul 00 | Media reports
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16 Oct 00 | Country profiles
Country profile: Morocco
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