News

October 12, 2021

Moroccan newspaper editor’s appeal must get fair hearing, RSF says

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) hopes that imprisoned newspaper editor Souleiman Raissouni, who is still very weak from a long hunger strike, finally receives fair treatment from the Casablanca court that is due to begin hearing his appeal tomorrow.

The editor of the Akhbar al Yaoum daily newspaper (which had to suspend payments to its creditors in March), Raissouni was sentenced to five years in prison on 10 July at the end of a four-month trial marked by many flagrant irregularities. He was convicted on a sexual assault charge he has always denied.

 

The prosecution initially sought the maximum sentence of ten years in prison on the grounds that Raissouni was a public figure and had given “contradictory” statements while his accuser was the member of a minority and had provided the authorities with “consistent” statements.

 

Raissouni was not in court to hear the judge find him guilty in July because he was extremely weak from his hunger strike and was denied his request to be taken to court in an ambulance and to have a wheel-chair.

 

Raissouni refused to eat for 122 days in protest against his detention since May 2020. He is still suffering major after-effects from the hunger strike, including hypertension and paralysis of his right leg. His mind also often seems to go blank and he clearly needs significant medical and psychological attention.

 

“This appeal is a unique opportunity to redress the many irregularities so far seen in the proceedings against Souleiman Raissouni,” said Souhaieb Khayati, the head of RSF’s North Africa desk. “His state of health is still extremely worrying and it is absolutely essential that he should now be allowed to have a fair and equitable hearing. He has no place being in prison.”

 

Two other journalists who have been targeted by the Moroccan authorities are currently jailed on sex charges. One is Omar Radi, an investigative reporter who has been sentenced to six years in prison on charges of “rape” and “espionage”. The other is Akhbar al Yaoum founder Taoufik Bouachrine, who is serving a 15-year sentence on several sex charges that he has always denied.

 

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