Moroccan court sentences striking dissident journalist to five years in prison

CASABLANCA, Morocco, July 9 (Reuters) – A Moroccan court in Casablanca on Friday sentenced Moroccan dissident journalist Soulimane Raisouni to five years in prison for sexual assault, which he denies in a case that has outraged human rights defenders in the country. .

Raisouni has been on a hunger strike for more than 80 days to protest his pre-trial detention since May 2020.

The plaintiff and witnesses were heard in the absence of Raisouni and his defense who had withdrawn from the hearings since Tuesday due to concerns about a fair trial.

“A fair trial cannot take place in the absence of the accused himself,” said his lawyer Souad Brahma.

“All Risouni asked to be able to attend the trial was to be transported from prison by ambulance due to his state of health and to be given a wheelchair. But it was refused by the prison administration, ”Brahma said, adding that the verdict would be appealed.

Raisouni’s family and defense said he should be taken to hospital after his health deteriorated sharply due to the strike.

The prosecutor had accused Raisouni of delaying tactics and the prison administration declared that his state of health was stable.

On the same day, hearings were held into a sexual assault and espionage case against Omar Radi, another dissident journalist in pre-trial detention since July last year.

Human rights activists believe authorities are using criminal charges to target political opponents by unevenly enforcing the law. Raisouni and Radi openly criticize public policies, the justice system and Morocco’s human rights record.

Radi and Raisouni both faced smear campaigns prior to their detention by media outlets that usually defend the authorities.

Plaintiffs in both cases said attempts to portray the cases as politically motivated denied them their right to seek justice and accused victims’ rights groups of blaming victims.

The government claims that the judiciary is independent and that the courts and the police only enforce national laws.

Reporting by Ahmed Eljechtimi Editing by Alistair Bell

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