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Sunday, 8 October, 2000, 08:57 GMT 09:57 UK
Ex-prisoners demand Morocco trials
 Two of the Franco-Moroccan Bourekat brothers
These brothers were jailed in Tazmamart for 10 years
Hundreds of former political prisoners and activists in Morocco have held a protest march outside a former secret prison to condemn past human rights abuses.


We want this prison opened to the public to show that the page is turned and that Morocco respects the principles of human rights and state of law

Former detainee Medhat Medhat Bourikat
The protesters were barred from entering Tazmamart prison, situated in the Atlas mountains 500km (310 miles) south-east of Rabat, which was surrounded by dozens of paramilitary troops.

The demonstrators carried candles and red roses in memory of about 30 officers who they say died at the jail in the late 1970s and 1980s.

They urged the Moroccan government to hand over their remains to their relatives and to put on trial those responsible for the detentions, deaths and disappearances.

Repression

The secret jail is said to have once held army officers who had been involved in two coup attempts against the late King Hassan in 1971 and 1972.

Relatives of those jailed at Tazmamart stage a protest outside the former jail
Relatives of those jailed want information about those still missing
A Frenchman of Moroccan origin, Medhat Medhat Bourikat, called for it to be opened to the public to show "that Morocco respects the principles of human rights".

Mr Bourikat, who was detained in the prison along with two of his brothers for more than 10 years, said he never knew why he was held.

He and a brother came from France to take part in the protest.

Correspondents say that Tazmamart was among half a dozen secret detention centres built in the 1970s to hold hundreds of left-wing political activists arrested after a wave of protest and unrest.

New policy

Morocco's new King, Mohammed VI, has said he wants Morocco to serve as a beacon for human rights in the region.

Diplomats say that Morocco's record on human rights, once one of the worst in the Arab world, is now one of the best, although observers believe that abuses continue.

In April, a human rights centre opened in the Moroccan capital, Rabat, to train prison warders, judges, policemen and teachers.

The first such centre in the Arab world, it is funded jointly by the Moroccan Ministry for Human Rights and the United Nations.

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See also:

16 Apr 00 | Africa
Rights centre opens in Morocco
03 Apr 00 | Africa
Morocco's quest to be European
22 Oct 99 | Africa
Morocco continues liberal moves
31 Jul 99 | Africa
Morocco frees prisoners
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