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A man gestures at a protest in support of protests in northern Morocco's Rif region, Rabat, May 28, 2017. (AP/Mosa'ab Elshamy)

Morocco deports Algerian journalist

June 1, 2017 5:12 PM ET

New York, June 1, 2017--Moroccan authorities should lift any restrictions on Algerian journalist Djamel Alilat's ability to enter Morocco following his May 30 deportation, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Police arrested Alilat as he left a protest he was covering in northern Morocco two days prior, according to the journalist and other news reports.

Three plainclothes police officers arrested Alilat, a reporter for the daily French-language Algerian newspaper Al-Watan, as he left a protest in Al-Nador, in northern Morocco's Rif region. The demonstration was led by Al-Hirak al-Shaabi ("The People's Movement"), an anti-corruption movement, Alilat wrote in Al-Watan after his return to Algeria.

Police held Alilat for more than 36 hours in the town's police station and questioned him about his work, he and other news outlets reported. Police then escorted him to the airport in Casablanca and deported him to Algeria, Alilat and Algeria's state news agency reported.

"We call on Moroccan authorities to allow journalists, regardless of their country of origin or their employer, to freely cover important events, including protests in the Rif," said Sherif Mansour, Middle East and North Africa Coordinator.

Alilat arrived in Morocco on May 26 to cover the protests, Al-Watan director Omar Belhouchet told the Algerian broadcaster Al-Shorouk TV yesterday. The Rif region has been the site of protests since October 2016, when a fishmonger was crushed to death inside a garbage truck while trying to retrieve fish police had confiscated from him, according to news reports. Protests organizers, including activist Nasser Zefzafi, have been arrested on charges of insulting the Kingdom's figures, making provocative speeches, and creating disturbances, according to media reports.

Morocco and Algeria have strained relations, in part because of Algeria's support for the independence of the Western Sahara region, which Morocco considers to be its southern provinces.

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