UN calls detention of Moroccan journalist 'arbitrary'

AFP

3 min read
A Moroccan activist holds a banner with the image of jailed Moroccan journalist Soulaimane Raissouni during a protest in Rabat, Morocco, on July 10, 2021.
FADEL SENNA / AFPA Moroccan activist holds a banner with the image of jailed Moroccan journalist Soulaimane Raissouni during a protest in Rabat, Morocco, on July 10, 2021.

Soulaimane Raissouni is imprisoned for sex crimes, but says he was prosecuted 'because of his opinions'

United Nations rights experts concluded that Morocco's detention of opposition journalist Soulaimane Raissouni is "arbitrary" and called for his immediate release.

Raissouni was jailed on appeal for five years in February, one of several journalists critical of Morocco's government to be imprisoned for sex crimes.

He was arrested in May 2020 after a young LGBTQ+ activist pressed charges against him. Raissouni always maintained his innocence, and says he was prosecuted "because of his opinions.”

In a report seen by AFP on Tuesday, the UN's Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded that "violations of the right to a fair trial were of such gravity that Mr. Raissouni's detention is arbitrary.”

The report also voiced "deep concern for his physical and psychological well-being" and said the "appropriate move would be to release him immediately.”

After he was detained, Raissouni staged a 122-day hunger strike, which the experts said affected his health.

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He was arrested two days after publishing an editorial criticizing the authorities for taking over-zealous measures during the Covid pandemic.

The UN experts said publishing the column was a matter of freedom of expression and concluded that he was "detained for peacefully exercising that right.”

Moroccan authorities insist his trial was fair and that the charges have nothing to do with his journalism.

Since 2019, two other Moroccan journalists, Omar Radi and Taoufik Bouachrine, were sentenced to prison terms for sexual assault, accusations they deny.

Radi was also convicted of espionage.

Morocco stands at 136 out of 180 in the Paris-based watchdog Reporters Without Borders world press freedom ranking of countries.

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