Reporters Without Borders voiced dismay at the maximum five-year prison sentence requested by the king's prosecutor at the opening of the trial today in Rabat of Ali Lmrabet, editor of the weeklies Demain Magazine and Douman . The prosecutor also requested a fine of 100,000 dirhams (about 10,000 euros), the banning of the two weeklies and Lmrabet's immediate arrest.
Reporters Without Borders voiced dismay at the maximum five-year prison sentence requested by the king's prosecutor at the opening of the trial today in Rabat of Ali Lmrabet, editor of the weeklies Demain Magazine and Douman and the Reporters Without Borders correspondent in Morocco. The prosecutor also requested a fine of 100,000 dirhams (about 10,000 euros), the banning of the two weeklies and Lmrabet's immediate arrest. As a result, Lmrabet was detained in the courtroom by police for about 10 minutes until the detention order was revoked following objections by his lawyers. Now in the eighth day of a hunger strike, Lmrabet is accused of "insulting the person of the king", "offence against territorial integrity" and "offence against the monarchy." "This prosecution has no place in a country that claims to be a democracy," Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard said. "All this is grotesque, medieval and grossly unjust. In reality, Ali Lmrabet is being accused of nothing less than lèse-majesté," Ménard said. "A court that issues judgements 'in the name of the king' lacks credibility when it tries supposed crimes against the same king," Ménard argued. "How can we not question the impartiality of a verdict by judges whose professional career depends on the High Council for the Judiciary, of which the president is none other than the king," he said. Ménard noted that, on 18 January 2000, the UN special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Abid Hussain, had called on all governments "to ensure that press crimes are no longer subject to prison sentences" and had warned that the imposition of a prison sentence for the peaceful expression of opinion constituted "a serious violation of human rights." Ménard also called on the Moroccan authorities to put and end to the pressure on Lmrabet's printers to stop printing his two weeklies. "The harassment of Lmrabet, the tenacity with which he is being targeted, are a clear warning to other independent newspapers," he added. Lmrabet is being prosecuted over articles and cartoons about the annual allowance that parliament grants the royal family (detailed in a finance ministry document distributed to parliamentarians), a cartoon strip on the history of slavery, a photomontage of Moroccan political personalities, and an interview with a Moroccan republican who advocated self-determination for Western Sahara. The owner of the printing works Ecoprint told Lmrabet at the beginning of May that he would have to stop printing Lmrabet's two weeklies because of pressure being put on him. He later said it was because he disagreed with their content. When he began his hunger strike on 6 May, Lmrabet said he acting to defend his rights, to stop the repeated acts of intimidation against his printer and others who would otherwise be ready to print his weeklies, and in order to be able to enjoy the right to freedom of movement. As Lmrabet was about to fly from Rabat airport to Paris on 17 April, two agents from the Directorate of Territorial Security (DST) told him he was banned from leaving the country "on the instructions of the DST." The ban was lifted the following week. The report Warnings for the Independent Press