11 face charges in Moroccan fish vendor death after protests

RABAT, Morocco (AP) " Moroccan authorities say 11 people are facing manslaughter or forgery charges in the investigation of the death of a fish vendor crushed inside a garbage truck, an incident which prompted nationwide protests.

The suspects include two local security agents, the head of the local fisheries department and the head doctor of the local veterinary services, according to a prosecutor's statement reported by state news agency MAP. The 11 were presented to a judge in the northern city of Hoceima on Tuesday and ordered detained pending further investigation, MAP reported.

Mouhcine Fikri was selling 500 kilograms (1100 pounds) of unauthorized swordfish which local police confiscated and discarded on Friday. The prosecutor's statement confirmed Fikri was killed by a garbage compactor after he climbed inside the truck to retrieve his fish.

Activists and witnesses had said that a local police officer ordered the garbage truck driver to start the compactor and "grind him."

"Grind him" has become the top hashtag on social media in Morocco.

The Moroccan prosecutor's statement, however, said "there was no order (given) to assault the victim."

It said the swordfish was not allowed to be sold in October and November and so police ordered it destroyed. The alleged forgery concerns the paperwork involved in destroying the fish.

Some have compared Fikri to Tunisian vendor Mohamed Bouazizi, who set himself on fire to protest police abuse and corruption, sparking the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings.

Protests denouncing police abuse took place Sunday around Morocco, where widespread and coordinated mobilizations are rare. On Monday, protesters gathered in front of the Moroccan Embassy in Paris, and Tunisian activists called for protests Tuesday in solidarity with Moroccan demonstrators.

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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