Moroccans block border post into Spanish enclave

12th August 2010, Comments 0 comments

Moroccan demonstrators Thursday blocked trucks transporting fresh food from entering Spain's north African enclave of Melilla to protest alleged abuse by Spanish police, media said.

The protest began at dawn, causing a shortage of fish, fruit and vegetables in the Melilla markets, and traffic was resumed in the afternoon, Spanish media reported.

The demonstrators were angry over recent alleged incidents, including beatings, by Spanish police against Moroccan nationals at the border posts of Melilla and Spain's other disputed north African enclave of Ceuta.

The head of the autonomous municipality of Melilla, Juan Jose Imbroda, condemned what he said was the failure of the Moroccan authorities to prevent Thursday's protest.

"Some 25 to 30 people cannot be allowed to cut the traffic on the border by saying that they are not going to allow food products to pass through and that Moroccan authorities fully allow this," he told Spain's radio Cadena Ser.

Morocco last month accused Spanish police of badly injuring five of its citizens trying to enter Melilla by beating them for carrying a Moroccan flag.

On August 2 the Moroccan government protested to Madrid over what it said was "violence" inflicted by Spanish police on a Moroccan student at the Melilla border post.

And last week Rabat accused a Spanish border patrol of abandoning eight sub-Saharan migrants off the Moroccan coast in a critical state of health.

Spain's King Juan Carlos phoned his Moroccan counterpart, Mohammed VI, on Wednesday in a bid to ease the tense relations between the neighbours.

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero on Tuesday also sought calm the situation, saying he was ready to "clarify, discuss and inform" about any alleged incidents.

He added that Spanish security forces always act "with the utmost correctness."

The two countries traditionally have close ties but tensions have simmered over Melilla and Ceuta, on the north coast of north Africa bordering Morocco.

Madrid in May reaffirmed Spanish sovereignty over the two tiny enclaves after the Moroccan government called for a dialogue on the matter.

A low point in Spanish-Moroccan relations was a dispute in 2002 when Spanish troops expelled a group of Moroccan soldiers from the disputed Mediterranean islet of Perjil.

Tensions again rose in November 2007 when King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia visited Ceuta and Melilla.

© 2010 AFP

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