In a decision handed down on 25 October, a Casablanca appeal court not only added three years to Bouachrine’s prison sentence but also fined him a massive 255,000 euros.
Arrested in February 2018 and convicted in November 2018 of human trafficking, abuse of power for sexual purposes, rape and attempted rape, Bouachrine has always denied the charges and insisted that he was the victim of a “political trial.”
“This judicial persecution of Taoufik Bouachrine is incomprehensible,” said Souhaieb Khayati, the head of RSF’s North Africa bureau. “We call on Morocco’s justice system to overturn this journalist’s conviction and free him at once.”
In January 2019, a group of UN Human Rights Council experts described Bouachrine’s detention as “arbitrary” and said he was the victim of “judicial harassment.”
He is far from being the only journalist to be subjected to judicial persecution in Morocco. Ali Anouzla has been on trial for years, as has Maati Monjib and six other journalists and human rights activists, while jail terms and fines have been imposed on journalists who covered the “Hirak” protests in northern Morocco’s Rif region. They include Hamid el Mahdaoui and Rabii el Ablak, who has been on hunger strike for more than 50 days in protest against his politically-motivated conviction.
Morocco is ranked 135th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.