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Skyline International Calls on Moroccan Authorities to Stop Prosecuting Journalists and Bloggers
Skyline International calls on the Moroccan authorities to release the journalist Omar Al-Radhi and the activist Mohammed Bekkaki, who were detained because of tweets and YouTube videos they had posted. Bekkaki has been tried and sentenced, while Radi is awaiting trial.
According to testimonies available to Skyline International, on Thursday, December 26, 2019, the Moroccan court sentenced Bekkaki to four years in prison after convicting him of insulting the Moroccan monarch, the Moroccan people and constitutional institutions.
Mohamed Zayan, Bekkaki’s lawyer, says that he was arrested in early December after publishing a video in which he referred to Moroccans as “donkeys” and criticized King Mohammed VI, who “must not be criticized” according to the constitution. Zayan affirms that his client will appeal the verdict.
In the other case, Moroccan activist and journalist Omar Al-Radhi (33 years old) is scheduled to be tried on January 2, 2020, on charges of insulting a judge who had imposed heavy penalties on demonstrators from the countryside. If convicted, Radi could face up to one year in prison.
The judicial police in Casablanca summoned Al-Radhi and referred him directly to the court for presentation to the king’s prosecutor.
On December 26, the judge rejected Al-Radhi’s request for pre-trial release, although he suffers from severe asthma and other health conditions.
The police had detained Al-Radhi for more than four hours last April because of his Twitter post related to the trial of rural activists.
Their verdicts were issued after the Moroccan Association for Human Rights had criticized what it described as “an escalation of violations of human rights, public and individual freedoms” in Morocco.
In the Moroccan Penal Code, in Chapter 26, a prison sentence of one month to one year and a fine are imposed on anyone who “insults any of the judicial personnel … with the intent to prejudice their honor, feeling, or due respect for their authority.”
Last month, a Moroccan court sentenced rapper Simo Gnaoui to one year in prison for “insulting public officials” through his release of the song “Acha El Chaab,” which included dissident words and barbs. Also, a high school student was sentenced to three years in prison for publishing the song on social media, according to human and media sources.
As affirmed by the United Nations Human Rights Committee, freedom of expression is a right for all citizens. It includes criticism of public figures, and may not be restricted in any way. Morocco, as a party to the Universal Declaration and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, is obliged to commit to respecting these rights.
Skyline International condemns the escalation of the campaign of arrests and trials against activists and journalists in Morocco, and demands the release of Omar Radi and a review of the verdict against Bekkaki — immediately, and without restrictions or conditions.
Skyline International holds the Moroccan authorities responsible for endangering the life of Radi, who suffers from shortness of breath and asthma, and reproves the accountable judge for refusing to release him.
The human rights organization denounces the escalating violations of the rights to freedom of expression and opinion in Morocco, which have included the arrest and trial of journalists for their posts on social media.
It also condemns the participation of the judiciary in this attack. Instead of engaging in acts of political exploitation, judicial authorities should exercise neutrality and protection of rights and freedoms.
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