Moroccan dissident journalist Omar Radi sentenced to six years in prison, alarming human rights groups

A Moroccan court on Monday sentenced dissident reporter Omar Radi to six years in prison on charges of assault and espionage, which he denied, in a case that has alarmed human rights groups.

Radi, who has been in custody for nearly a year, said he had consensual sex with his prosecutor Hafsa Boutahar and dismissed all charges of espionage.

Radi’s lawyer, Ali Amar, said there was no evidence for the allegations and the verdict will be appealed.

The verdict came ten days after the same court in Casablanca imposed a five-year prison term for assault on another dissident journalist, Soulimane Raissouni, who also denied the charges.

Both men are outspoken critics of the authorities, public order, the judiciary and the human rights situation in Morocco. Raissouni has been on hunger strike for more than 90 days.

Rights activists have accused authorities of abusing the justice system to silence critical voices and misapply the law, using criminal charges with little evidence to attack political opponents.

Radi’s colleague Imad Stitou, who was charged by justice with complicity in the alleged incident after testifying as a witness, was sentenced to a year in prison, half of which was suspended.

In both cases, prosecutors said the defendants’ attempts to press charges as politically motivated denied them the right to seek justice.

Last week, the US State Department said the ruling in Raissouni’s case raised concerns about fair trials and freedom of expression in Morocco.

Morocco said the US response was based on biased information and neither trial was related to the defendants’ work. It said that the judiciary is independent and that courts and police only enforce national laws.

(REUTERS)

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