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Morocco says protest camp break-up was "peaceful"

Spanish interior minister receives "meticulous account" from counterpart

Moroccan Interior Minister Taib Cherkaui was in Madrid on Tuesday to defend what he called his country's security forces' "peaceful" breaking up of a Sahrawi protest camp outside the Western Sahara capital of Laâyoune 10 days ago. He also stated that the Spanish national who died there last week was run over in an accident and was not in the camp.

Speaking in a press conference following a meeting with his Spanish counterpart Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, Cherkaui continued his government's line of accusing the Spanish press of twisting the facts against Morocco. Several Spanish journalists have been expelled from the country in recent days, allegedly for making "racist and hateful" reports about the violent dismantling of the camp.

In his version, Cherkaui said Moroccan security forces had suffered "brutal aggression" as they tried to rescue innocent citizens from the armed militias that had taken control of the camp, set up to demand better social conditions. The minister also said the death of a Spanish Sahrawi was being investigated by the Laâyoune public prosecutor.

"Baby Hamday Buyema died due to an accident, he was run over," he said. "He was not found in the camp. Nobody opened fire on him." Relatives have said the victim was run over repeatedly by security forces.

Speaking in a separate press conference in Madrid yesterday afternoon, Rubalcaba said Cherkaui had offered a "meticulous account that refutes the serious accusations of the last few days" relating to the breaking up of the protest camp and the death of Buyema and had promised he would "investigate any doubt, any fact or any piece of information."

Shortly beforehand, Foreign Minister Trinidad Jiménez had addressed a tense Senate to defend the government's failure to condemn Rabat for the camp's destruction and rounding up of protestors due to a lack of sufficient information. "Without confirmation of the facts, a responsible government should not speculate," she said. Condemning Rabat without proof "would have consequences."