The Moroccan opponent Mohamed Ziane, former president of the Rabat Bar and Minister of Human Rights between 1995 and 1996, was arrested and imprisoned Monday evening after being sentenced on appeal to three years in prison, a judicial source and his son said.
"He was transferred to the prison of El Arjat (near Rabat). He was not even legally notified (of his conviction) and never appeared," Ali Reda Ziane, a lawyer defending his father, told AFP.
"He was convicted (by the Court of Appeal in Rabat) for all possible and imaginable charges, it is an aberration that I have never seen," protested the opponent's son.
In a statement, the prosecutor's office then confirmed that "the services of the competent judicial police, and on the instructions of the Public Prosecutor's Office, have arrested the person concerned and have imprisoned him in the execution of the provisions of the appeal decision.
Before his arrest, Mohamed Ziane told AFP on Monday that he had "never received a summons to appear before the Court of Appeal", assuring that "he is being tried because of his opinions".
His son denounced "a spiral against my father since he took a stand in favor of the +Hirak+ of the Rif", a powerful social movement that agitated this Berber mountainous region of northern Morocco in 2016-2017.
A famous lawyer in Morocco, Mohamed Ziane, 79, also defended Taoufik Bouachrine, an opposition media boss imprisoned since 2018 after being sentenced to 15 years in prison for "sexual assaults" against eight women, charges he has always denied, denouncing "a political trial."
Mr. Ziane was prosecuted under a complaint from the Moroccan Ministry of Interior, for eleven counts, including "contempt of public officials and justice", "insult against a constituted body", "defamation", "adultery" or "sexual harassment".
- Faked" video -
He was sentenced on February 23 to three years in prison and a fine of 5,000 dirham (470 euros) but was left free.
In a statement, the Moroccan Committee for the Support of Prisoners of Conscience said it was "extremely shocked" by Ziane's arrest.
"His appeal trial was held in a single hearing, without giving Barrister Ziane the opportunity to defend himself. The court did not hear him or his defense," criticized this collective of human rights defenders in Morocco.
"He was arrested by more than twenty plainclothes police officers who burst into his office (...), without presenting any judicial decision, which is a flagrant violation of the code of criminal procedure, the Constitution, and international conventions," the NGO lamented.
Founder of the Moroccan Liberal Party (PML) and a senior government official, Mr. Ziane is known for his critical statements against the government, mainly the Moroccan intelligence services.
In November 2020, the former Rabat barrister accused the security services of "rigging" a video that compromised an interview between him and a married client in a hotel room.
The video had been broadcast by a Moroccan web-tv, which caused a stir on social networks.
At the time, Mr. Ziane accused the head of the police and domestic intelligence, Abdelatif Hammouchi, of being responsible for "faking" the images.
Mohamed Ziane was Minister of Human Rights between 1995 and 1996. Close to the circles of power, he was also the government's lawyer in the 1990s. In recent years, he has become famous for his outspokenness toward the Moroccan security apparatus.