Morocco: The three-year prison sentence against activist "Ridha Ben Othman" for expressing his opinion on social media is an unacceptable attack on freedom of opinion and speech
Stockholm - The international human rights foundation Skyline denounces the decision of a Moroccan judicial authority to imprison the activist and former prisoner "Ridha Ben Othman" for three years and to fine him two thousand dollars for sharing a post on his Facebook page. It stresses that these practices are a serious violation of the international rules that guarantee freedom of expression and opinion.
In a statement issued today, Thursday, Skyline points out that a Moroccan court sentenced activist "Othman" on Monday, November 7, to three years in prison and a fine for criticizing Moroccan authorities on social media. In these blogs, he called, among other things, to protest against the abuses of the security services and criticize the authorities for ignoring the demands for social justice. He also warned in a video blog against using the mandatory Covid-19 vaccination passport as a new tool of repression
Skyline points out that the prosecutor's office charged Othman with "insulting supervisors" and "insulting public officials ," as well as "spreading false allegations and facts without the consent of the person concerned" under Articles 265, 263 and 447-2 of the Criminal Code. He was also charged with violating the Decree on Health Emergency.
Skyline highlights a post by "Souad Brahma," a member of the Al-Ablaq Defense Committee, on its Facebook page, which states, "Unfortunately, today the verdict was passed against the land movement activist, Rabih Al-Ablaq, for a post on Facebook in which he was sentenced to four years in prison, twenty thousand dirhams and a fine," the publication said.
The human rights foundation Skyline points out that "Othman" was arrested on September 9 and questioned by the Moroccan security services about written and photographed publications on Facebook and YouTube between August and September last year.
Ridha Ben Othman's mother, Rachida El Baydaoui, commented on the verdict on her Facebook page, saying, "We have known, and we have suffered in the years of lead, but who can accurately name the New Testament? Are the two eras similar? Does one transcend the other?" Will we be able to get rid of one and the other? What about the slogan "No to repetition"? They sentenced Rida to three years in prison, (whether it's) 3, 5, 6, 10, 15 or 20 years, all are long, very long, but the suffering is the same for all."
"Skyline" states that this is not the first time that "Rida Bin Othman" has been detained, as he was already arrested in 2007 and spent four years in prison, against the background of visiting websites calling for "jihad" against the U.S. occupation of Iraq and his criticism of the official stand for his country.
The Human Rights Foundation Skyline considers that the circumstances of the arrest and trial of "Othman" are based on political and illegal grounds, which is an unacceptable attack on the rights recognized by the international community to protect freedom of expression. It points out that such practices reflect the Moroccan authorities' - unjustified - use of their influence and leverage in persecuting opponents and activists.
In addition, Skyline stresses that the repeated arrests of activists and opposition figures by Moroccan authorities are contrary to the provisions of a number of international conventions, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, " Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any medium and regardless of frontiers."
Skyline International concludes its statement by calling on the judicial authorities to review the verdict against activist "Othman" and allow him to defend himself fully, and renewed its appeal to the Moroccan government to cease all forms of prosecution and subpoenas against activists and opposition figures. It stressess that the government's role must be to create an appropriate climate in which individuals can express their views and give them the full space to do so.