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Morocco: authorities must ensure prominent journalist Omar Radi a fair trial and release him pending the outcome of his appeals

vendredi 26 novembre 2021 - 11:34am

RAPID ACTION NETWORK

26 November 2021

RAN 05/2021

Morocco: authorities must ensure prominent journalist Omar Radi a fair trial and release him pending the outcome of his appeals

On 19 July 2021, the Casablanca Court of Appeal sentenced prominent Moroccan journalist Omar Radi to six years imprisonment following an unfair trial. Radi remained in arbitrary pre-trial detention for almost a year before he was convicted. On 25 November 2021, the court postponed his appeal hearing to 25 November 2021.

PEN International believes that Radi’s conviction followed an unfair trial and that he is being targeted because of the content of his writings.

TAKE ACTION: Please send appeals:

  • Urging the Moroccan authorities to ensure Omar Radi’s right to a fair trial;
  • Calling on the Moroccan authorities to immediately release him pending the result of his appeal;
  • Calling on the Moroccan authorities to end the harassment -- attacks, intimidation and unlawful detention of journalists and writers -- simply on the basis of the content of their writing or alleged affiliations and to immediately release all those imprisoned for exercising their right to freedom of expression, in line with their obligations under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

Send appeals to:

***Please send appeals immediately to:

1 – Mr Aziz Akhnouch, Chef du governement,

Address: Palais Royal Touarga, Rabat 10070, Morocco

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ChefGov_ma

2- Mr Nasser BOURITA, Minister of Foreign Affairs, African Cooperation and Moroccan Expatriates

Address: 7 street F. Roosevelt, Rabat, Morocco

Fax: 05 37 55 66 77

Online communication Forum: https://www.diplomatie.ma/en/contacter-nous

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Marocdiplo_EN

**Send copies to the Embassy of Morocco in your own country.

* Embassy addresses may be found here:

https://www.diplomatie.ma/en/d...

  • For appeals sent from the UK:

S.E.M. ABOUDRAR ABDESSELAM

49 Queen's Gate Gardens London SW7 5NE

FAX: 0207 225 3862

E-MAIL: ambalondres@maec.gov.ma

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MOROCCOinU...

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Moroc...

Please reach out to your Ministry of Foreign Affairs and diplomatic representatives in Morocco, calling on them to raise Omar Radi’s case in bilateral fora.

Please inform PEN of any action you take and any responses you receive.

Publicity

PEN members are encouraged to:

  • Publish articles and opinion pieces in your national or local press highlighting Omar Radi’s case and the situation of freedom of expression in Morocco;
  • Share information about Radi and include his case in your campaigning activities via social media. Please use the hashtag #FreeMorrocanjournalists. #FreeOmarRadi #JournalisimIsNotACrime

Please keep us informed of your activities and any responses that you receive.

Background

Leading investigative journalist Omar Radi is known for his work on injustice, exposing corruption, nepotism between political powers and business elites, human rights, and social movements. He has worked for several media outlets including, TelQuel, Media 24, and Le Desk.

On 29 July 2020, the National Brigade of Judicial Police (BNPJ) summoned Radi for investigation over alleged accusations of ‘sexual assault with violence,’ ‘rape,’ ‘undermining internal state security by receiving foreign funding,’ and ‘undermining external state security through collaborating with foreign intelligence.’ The charges came under articles 191, 206, 485 and 486 of the Moroccan Criminal Code. The BNPJ referred him to the Casablanca Court of Appeal, where an investigative judge ordered his detention pending further investigation. He remained in pre-trial detention for over a year before a Casablanca court sentenced him to six years imprisonment on 19 July 2021, following a trial deemed unfair by leading human rights organisations, including Amnesty International.

According to the case file, which PEN International reviewed, authorities have combined charges against Radi in two separate investigations into one case. The first set of charges concerning the espionage allegations were related to Radi’s journalistic work and activism. The case file shows that Radi has been under surveillance since December 2017, as security officers have been monitoring his communications and recording his calls over concerns of his ‘suspicious behaviour undermining state security.’

On 14 and 21 June 2020, Chouftv – a news website known to have ties to security agencies, launched a smear campaign accusing Radi of receiving foreign funds to provide espionage services to foreign companies. The file shows that authorities questioned Radi on 25 June 2020 regarding the espionage allegations, days after Amnesty International launched its report identifying evidence that Radi had been targeted by the Moroccan authorities using the notorious Pegasus spyware produced by the Israeli company NSO Group. According to HRW, Radi was summoned by the BNPJ and the Gendarmerie Royale Brigade in Casablanca for 12 interrogation sessions of six to nine hours each to face accusations of allegedly providing ‘espionage services’ to foreign governments, firms, and organisations.

The second set of charges concerning the alleged sexual assault and rape followed a complaint filed by Radi’s colleague on 23 July 2020, accusing him of rape on 13 July. Radi denied the accusation and claimed that he had consensual sex with her, providing WhatsApp messages supporting his claim. The case file further reveals that authorities accused journalist Imad Stitou, the sole witness who had supported Radi’s claim of innocence with compilicity to commit rape and sexual assault; The plaintiffs statement however, is clear that Stitou did not participate in the alleged assault, raising concerns about the charges brought against Radi.

Radi has been a target of the Moroccan authorities for years. He was previously detained in 2019 over a tweet in which he criticised a judge who imposed heavy penalties on protesters from the Rif region. In June 2020, Amnesty International identified evidence suggesting that Radi had been targeted by the Moroccan authorities using the notorious Pegasus spyware produced by Israeli company NSO Group.

Moroccan authorities are known to use smear campaigns and sex charges to silence journalists and critics. In 2019, former editor-in-chief of Akhbar al-Youm newspaper Taoufik Bouachrine, was sentenced on appeal to 15 years in prison by the Casablanca Court of Appeal. Bouachrine was initially arrested in February 2018 on charges including human trafficking, sexual assault, rape, prostitution, and harassment. One of Bouachrine’s alleged victims subsequently published her testimony, revealing that Moroccan security officials exerted immense pressure on her to falsely accuse Bouachrine of sexual assault, and that her statement to the police was falsified by Moroccan security officials and leaked to the press. In response, the victim filed a perjury complaint with the Court of Cassation, where she denied the allegations made on her name against Bouachrine. She was later harassed, intimidated, and sentenced to six months in jail on a charge of ‘falsifying her statement.’ Despite her statement in which she states that, Bouachrine was falsely accused, he was sentenced to 12 years in prison, later increased to 15 years on appeal.

In July 2021, the Casablanca Court of Appeal sentenced prominent Moroccan journalist Soulaiman Raissouni to five years imprisonment and 100,000 Moroccan Dirhams (11,000$) on charges of ‘sexual assault’ and ‘enforced confinement,’ following a trial marred by irregularities. Moreover, Raissouni’s niece, Hajar Raissouni, who worked as a journalist for the Akhbar al-Youm newspaper, was sentenced to one year in prison for ‘illegal abortion’ and ‘debauchery’ on 30 September 2019. Leading human rights organisations have repeatedly condemned the misuse of sex charges against journalists by the Moroccan authorities in an attempt to silence them.

PEN International strongly believes that all sexual and gender-based violence allegations should be taken seriously, thoroughly and independently investigated, and perpetrators brought to justice. Survivors of sexual and gender-based violence should be provided with the necessary medical and psychological support. PEN International stresses that charges relating to sexual or gender-based violence should however never be used as a pretext to suppress freedom of expression and intimidate journalists who have the right to fair and impartial judicial proceedings.

For further details contact Mina Thabet at PEN International, Koops Mill, 162-164 Abbey Street, London, SE1 2AN, UK Tel: +44 (0) 20 7405 0338 Fax +44 (0) 20 7405 0339 e-mail: Mina.Thabet@pen-international.org