Riot police broke up a protest by hundreds of Moroccans late on Friday against a royal pardon for a Spanish pedophile serving a 30-year sentence for raping and filming children as young as four.
In running clashes with the demonstrators, baton-wielding police prevented them from gathering in front of the Moroccan parliament in the center of the capital Rabat, injuring several people including journalists.
Hakim Sikouk, who also took part in the Rabat protest, told AFP: “I was with a group of friends in front of the parliament when the police intervened violently. I was hit on the head.”
The convicted pedophile is among 48 jailed Spaniards who were pardoned by King Mohammed VI on Tuesday at the request of Spain’s King Juan Carlos, who visited Morocco last month.
“We are here to know who is responsible for that pardon. It is a shame, they are selling our children,” Najia Adib, president of Don’t Touch My Children association, told Reuters moments after she and her teenage daughter had been surrounded by riot police who struck them with batons.
The demonstration followed an online campaign by outraged activists. Similar demonstrations were broken up earlier Friday in the northern cities of Tangiers and Tetouan.
Protesters demanded that the royal pardon be revoked and the Spaniard be brought back to jail. The government said the man had been expelled to Spain.
The Spanish Foreign Ministry confirmed on Saturday that the man was on Spanish territory and said his name was Daniel Galvan Vina.
Hamid Krayri, a lawyer for families of the victims, said Galvan had been convicted 18 months ago by criminal courts in Kenitra, near Rabat, of raping and filming 11 children aged between 4 and 15.
“He is a retired Spaniard who owns two flats here in Kenitra,” Krayri, who is a member of Morocco’s Human Rights Association, told Reuters. He said he had filed a complaint against Galvan three years ago when activists showed him disks containing footage of the Spaniard and his victims.
The royal palace made no immediate comment, but the Justice Ministry said in a statement on Friday that the pardon had been issued based on Morocco’s national interests under the friendly relations between the two countries.
“That person is banned in Morocco’s territory, he cannot return,” Justice Minister Mustapha Ramid told Reuters on Thursday.
The king often pardons prisoners on special occasions, such as Throne Day on July 30, but the decision to release the Spaniards at the request of the monarch of a former colonial power has riled many Moroccans.
“It is a big mistake. We want the annulment of the king’s decision and apologies for the victim families and the Moroccan people,” Abdelali Hamieddine, a member of the Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD), the senior partner in Morocco’s coalition government, said during the protest.
“Moroccans have the right to demonstrate when they feel humiliated and the authorities do not have the right to step in so violently,” he added.
He said the government is not to blame because the pardon came from the royal palace.
In June, thousands of Moroccans marched in Casablanca to condemn pedophilia and violence against children in the north African country.
On June 20, police arrested a suspected British pedophile after local residents overheard the screams from a six-year-old girl he allegedly abducted.
And in May, a Casablanca court jailed a 60-year-old Frenchman for 12 years after convicting him of pedophilia.
Protesters slammed the pardon as “an international shame” with one demonstrator saying the state “defends the rape of Moroccan children.”
One young woman student told AFP: “This is the first time I have been to a demonstration because I am outraged by this pardon which has set this pedophile free.”
“This is proof that our justice is a toy,” said Hamza Mahfoud, one of the protest organizers.
(Reuters, AFP, Al-Akhbar)