Morocco’s king asked to intercede on behalf of two imprisoned journalists whose lives are in danger
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) appeals to Morocco’s King Mohammed to use his influence to obtain the release of two imprisoned Moroccan journalists, Omar Radi and Souleiman Raissouni, who are in very poor health and are about to be put on trial. The king must also guarantee their right to due process, RSF says.
Radi’s trial is due to start today if not postponed for a fourth time, while Raissouni’s is due to begin on 3 June if not postponed for a sixth time. Both are facing up to ten years in prison for alleged sex offences and, in Radi’s case, on a state security charge as well. Despite a lack of satisfactory evidence, Radi’s requests for provisional release have been refused four times and Raissouni’s nine times.The rights of both journalists have been flouted. A reporter for the news website Le Desk who has been held since July 2020, Radi was only recently allowed access to his case file in order to be able to prepare his defence. Raissouni, the editor of the Akhbar Al Yaoum daily newspaper, has been isolated ever since his arrest in in May 2020 and was not allowed to communicate freely with his lawyer for the first two weeks.
“The denial of basic rights, the repeated trial postponements and the provisional release refusals attest to a particularly outrageous degree of political and judicial persecution,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “To end this flagrant manipulation of a judicial system that harasses journalists known for their independence and integrity, we appeal to Morocco’s King Mohammed to obtain their immediate release and to guarantee them due process. An urgent response is needed because their health is threatened.”
Both journalists have gone on hunger strike in protest against the way they have been treated. Radi, who suffers from Crohn’s disease, had to call off his hunger strike after 21 days, but Raissouni is still pursuing the hunger strike he began 53 days ago. He is suffering from chronic hypertension, he can no longer walk or talk, and was unable to defend himself when his trial began on 18 May and was quickly postponed.
A human rights defender and investigative reporter who covers sensitive stories, Radi was accused of spying after Amnesty International reported that the Moroccan authorities had used Israeli spyware to hack into his phone. He was subsequently also charged with rape after a woman journalist filed a complaint against him in July 2020. When Imad Stitou, a freelance journalist, confirmed Radi’s claim that the relationship was consensual, he was arrested on a charge of participating in the rape and is also awaiting trial. Raissouni, who has often written about corruption in Morocco, was jailed on a charge of “indecent assault with violence and kidnapping” on the basis of a claim that a young LGBTQ community activist made in a social media post that has never been repeated before a judge.
Morocco is ranked 136th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index.