The Moroccan justice rejects the last resort to release two journalists critical of power | International

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The Court of Cassation, the highest court in Morocco, has rejected the last appeal presented by two journalists critical of power, who have been serving prison sentences since 2021 after being accused of sexual assault and espionage. Omar Radi, 37, and Suleimán Raisuni, 51, had already had their sentences upheld to six and five years in prison, respectively, in an appeal hearing last year.

In an unusual public appearance, their lawyers, backed by international NGOs, last week summoned the highest authorities of the Maghreb country to seek "a judicial, legal and political solution" so that both journalists can regain their freedom through a pardon, reports France Presse. On the occasion of the Feast of the Throne, which is celebrated on the 30th, King Mohamed VI usually grants a royal pardon to numerous prisoners.

Omar Radi was prosecuted for rape and attack against state security for espionage for a foreign country, after it was revealed that his phone had been tapped with the Pegasus program. The journalist, who was denounced for sexual assault in July 2020 by a woman, has always maintained that the relationship was consensual. This was stated in the trial by another journalist, Imad Sstitu, the only witness present in the house where the events took place. His sentence to six months in prison for complicity after testifying in favor of his professional partner has also just been ratified in cassation.

The process has been carried out in parallel to that of editorial writer Suleimán Raisuni, convicted of sexual assault against an LGTBI activist. Both denounced that they have remained isolated in separate cells of the Ukacha prison, in Casablanca, and that they are victims of "judicial cruelty" because of their writings critical of power. Local NGOs, such as the Moroccan Association for Human Rights, and international ones, such as Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch (HRW) have closely followed their cases.

The lawyers of the reporters and representatives of the main NGOs called on July 10 in Casablanca for "the highest authority in the country" to mediate to reach a "political solution." "We hope that the imprisonment and judicial persecution will end through a review of the processes or with a measure of grace," said lawyer Mohamed Mesaudi, who has defended both journalists.

"The signal sent [por esta sentencia] It has been disastrous," said Khaled Drareni, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) representative for North Africa, after making public this Wednesday the ruling handed down on Tuesday by the Court of Cassation. This NGO has called on the Rabat authorities to "put an end to this inhuman judicial ordeal." Amnesty International, founded in London, has denounced that the two journalists have been deprived of the right to have reading and writing material. New York-based HRW has questioned the "tactics" used in Morocco to silence political dissidents through accusations of sex crimes.

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The Moroccan officials have insisted that the two journalists have been tried for "common crimes", which have nothing to do with their profession or freedom of expression, and have categorically denied that one of them was spied on with the manufacturing program Israeli Pegasus. The president of the Association for the Rights of Victims of Morocco, Aicha Guella, has deplored that both informers "try to politicize their processes after the facts have been proven in court", and has accused foreign NGOs of "instrumentalizing both cases ”, according to statements collected by France Presse. On a scale of 180 countries, headed by Norway and close by North Korea, Morocco ranks 144th in the press freedom ranking compiled by RSF.

80-year-old ex-minister imprisoned and sick

At the same time that jurists and NGOs invoked a royal pardon formula for the journalists Radi and Raisuni, the relatives of former minister Mohamed Ziane, 80, sentenced to three years in prison after having criticized the monarch's absences, made public that he was seriously ill in prison, reports This portal, which in turn cites the digital Al Hayat Al Yaumia, reports that during a scheduled visit last week to a prison near Rabat, relatives observed that Ziane, who also has Spanish nationality, presented serious difficulties to walk and had to wear a lumbar belt.

The man who was the head of the Human Rights portfolio between 1995 and 1996, before being a member of the opposition, has been interned for seven months in the El Arjat prison, on the outskirts of Rabat, after being indicted for 11 crimes, including they the one of "insult to the institutions". A year ago, he released a video on social networks in which he criticized "the absences of Mohamed VI", for allegedly ignoring the affairs of the kingdom, and demanding that he abdicate in favor of his son, Crown Prince Hassan, 20 years old. .

Former president of the Bar Association of the Moroccan capital and defense lawyer in prominent cases related to human rights, he was also accused of charges such as "instigating to violate measures to prevent the spread of covid", "setting a bad example for children ”, adultery or sexual harassment.

In 2020, Ziane's own lawyer blamed the security services for manipulating a video in which he appeared with a married client in a hotel room. Amnesty International has warned that the charge of adultery against him is "unfounded", since there was no complaint from at least one of the spouses of the adulterers, as required by Moroccan law.

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