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World

Morocco court postpones trial of hunger strike journalist

  • The Court of Appeal also refused a sixth request for provisional release by fellow journalist Omar Radi.
11 Jun 2021

CASABLANCA: The trial of Moroccan journalist Soulaimane Raissouni, who has been on hunger strike for 64 days, was Thursday again postponed to June 15 after a tense hearing where his lawyers said they were unable to plead due to the "alarming" state of his health.

Raissouni, 48, chief editor of Moroccan independent daily Akhbar al-Youm, is accused of "indecent assault", charges he denies.

He began a hunger strike in April demanding to be provisionally released, having been held in detention for more than a year, with all his requests for provisional release having been rejected since his arrest at the end of may 2020.

"We cannot plead while this man is dying before our eyes," his lawyers said, while the judge of the Casablanca Court of Appeal had insisted that proceedings start as quickly as possible.

His staggering, emaciated appearance gripped the court Thursday, with the silence broken only by the sobs of his family.

"You can let me out of prison to send me home, but it's me alone who decides to go from prison to the tomb," he told the judge.

"His place is in a hospital," said Souad Brahma, one of his lawyers.

The judge had to postpone the hearing once again after the journalist said: "I can't take it any longer. I want to go back to die in prison."

His request for provisional release was rejected Thursday evening.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) tweeted calling on King Mohammed VI "not to let the journalist die in prison."

The Court of Appeal also refused a sixth request for provisional release by fellow journalist Omar Radi.

Radi, known for his human rights work, has been held in pre-trial detention for 10 months on charges of rape and receiving foreign funds for the purpose of harming "state security". He denies all the charges against him.

Supporters say both cases are part of a defamation campaign targeting journalists and rights activists critical of Moroccan authorities.

RSF also reported that the appeal trial of historian Maati Monjib was postponed to September 30 after a brief hearing Thursday in Rabat.

The media rights watchdog said he had been sentenced to a year in prison for fraud and "endangering state security" after training journalists to investigate.