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Trial of Moroccan journalist Tawfiq Bouachrine "unfounded"

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention confirmed that the charges against Bouachrine are in retaliation for his journalistic work and his criticism of the Moroccan government.

Tawfiq Bouachrine, (L) director of the
Tawfiq Bouachrine, (L) director of the "Akhbar Al Youm" newspaper, and caricaturist Khalid Gueddar arrive at the court in Casablanca, Morocco, on 23 October 2009

ABDELHAK SENNA/AFP/Getty Images

This is an edited version of a statement that was originally published on anhri.info on 24 February 2019.

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) said that the decision of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention restores the rights of Moroccan journalist Tawfiq Bouachrine, editor of Akhbar Al Youm, an independent newspaper, who was sentenced to 12 years in prison on 9 November 2018 for "trafficking in human beings and sexual harassment."

On 29 January, the Working Group issued a report confirming that the accusations against Bouachrine were unfounded and that it had been ordered in retaliation for his journalistic work and his criticism of the Moroccan government.

It called on the Moroccan government to release Tawfiq Bouachrine and to compensate him financially for his "arbitrary detention", as well as the Moroccan government's commitment to stop repeating such practices, which violate the Kingdom's obligations to respect human rights.

In addition, the UN Human Rights Council called on the Moroccan government to open an independent investigation into the conditions of Bouachrine's detention and to hold those responsible for his year-long deprivation of liberty.

Bouachrine is one of the most critical voices in the kingdom. He was arrested on 23 February 2018 after security forces in plain clothing raided the headquarters of his newspaper in Casablanca.

Bouachrine was arrested and referred directly to the Criminal Court in Casablanca on the order of the Public Prosecution in contravention of Moroccan law. He was tried in a case lacking a fair trial as the headquarters of the newspaper were searched without a warrant.

This is not the first time that Bouachrine has been prosecuted for his journalistic work. He was convicted of defamation in 2015 in a case brought against him by former finance minister Mohamed Boussaid and agriculture minister Aziz Akhnouch. In 2009, he was sentenced to a suspended sentence of four years after the publication of caricatures deemed offensive to the royal family and the national flag.

It is noteworthy that the Moroccan government has been resorting to accusations of disgraceful acts against a number of journalists in order to prevent them from criticizing high-ranking members of the Moroccan authorities. Hisham Mansouri faced similar charges.

ANHRI calls on the Moroccan government to respond to the requests contained in the report of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and to release journalist Tawfiq Bouachrine at the appeal hearing scheduled for Monday 25 February.

To read the full statement, click here.

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