Moroccan appeal court confirms jail sentences for two more journalists

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns yesterday’s decisions by a Moroccan appeal court to uphold journalist Omar Radi’s six-year jail sentence and his colleague Imad Stitou one-year jail sentence (with six months suspended) after proceedings marred by many irregularities. Their convictions must be quashed and they must be released at once, RSF says.

Yesterday’s grossly unjust decisions came just one week after the Casablanca appeal court upheld newspaper editor Soulaiman Raissouni’s equally iniquitous five-year prison sentence. Although no hard evidence has ever been produced, the court confirmed Radi’s conviction on charges of rape and espionage, and Stitou’s conviction on a rape charge.

“A week after handing down an unjust and unjustified decision in response to Soulaimane Raissouni’s appeal, Moroccan justice has brought itself into further disrepute with these decisions,” said Souhaieb Khayati, the director of RSF’s North Africa bureau. “The trials of all three journalists – Raissouni, Radi and Stitou – were marred by countless irregularities and their detention is arbitrary. We call for their immediate and unconditional release.”

The proceedings against Radi began in June 2020, when the authorities announced that they were investigating him on suspicion of espionage just days after Amnesty International reported that the Moroccan authorities had use the Pegasus spyware developed by the Israeli company NSO Group to hack into his phone and monitor his activities.

A few weeks later, Radi was suddenly questioned in connection with a “rape” and “sexual harassment” complaint brought by a former female colleague, and he was detained on 29 July 2020.

“Failure to report a crime”

Stitou was initially questioned by the authorities as a witness, but after he confirmed Radi’s claim that his relationship with the plaintiff was “consensual,” he was charged with “failure to report a crime.”

Yesterday’s decisions confirm the justice system’s bias and readiness to persecute independent journalists in support of the government’s refusal to enter into any kind of dialogue. The hard-line approach began with Akhbar Alyoum publisher Taoufik Bouachrine’s imprisonment in 2018 and has been maintained ever since with practitioners of freely reported, independent and pluralist journalism.

Morocco is ranked 136th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index.

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Updated on 04.03.2022