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Sunday, 5 March, 2000, 05:03 GMT
Morocco torture protest
Candlelit vigil
Many of the protesters had been inmates of the prison
By Morocco correspondent Nick Pelham

More than 1,000 Moroccans have held a candlelit vigil at the gates of the former detention centre of Derb Moulay Cherif in Casablanca.

The vigil was organised by the Forum for Justice and Truth, which represents victims of Morocco's former political prisons.

It was part of a campaign to follow the example of Nelson Mandela and turn their former jail into a museum.

King Mohammed VI
Mohammed VI has promised reform
Amidst the night rush of Casablanca, the protesters silently laid candles and red roses at the gates of the former detention centre.

Many had been inmates of the centre itself, mostly left-wing activists who were abducted during the 1970s and 1980s.

They said they had been held there without trial, handcuffed, blindfolded and tortured.

Trial demand

Now they were coming back with banners demanding their alleged torturers be put on trial and that the white, five-storey building, which is still used by the security forces, be turned into a memorial.

As one campaigner put it: "Hundreds of people went through the centre. Quite a few of them died here, and now we are asking that this centre of torture be converted into a museum so the next generations don't forget that these things happened in their country."

The authorities have yet to react to the appeal but, unlike previous rallies, this one was not banned.

The young King of Morocco, Mohammed VI, has promised to turn his father's kingdom of fear into a state of law, and some Moroccan officials might well welcome confining human rights issues to a museum.

But for at least one Moroccan opposition force, the suppression continues.

Abdessalame Yassine, the leader of the main Islamist group, has just commemorated his tenth year under house arrest without trial.

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31 Jul 99 |  Africa
Morocco frees prisoners
22 Oct 99 |  Africa
Morocco continues liberal moves
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