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Morocco: imprisoned journalist says he is "victim of persecution"

Morocco: imprisoned journalist says he is "victim of persecution"
A woman carries a banner of detained journalist Taoufik Bouachrine during ...   -  
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Mosa'ab Elshamy/Copyright 2019 The AP. All rights reserved.


Moroccan journalist Taoufik Bouachrine, imprisoned since 2018, is suffering "ill-treatment" from the prison administration, his family said on Thursday, who are worried about the deterioration of his state of health and call for "urgent intervention ".

Mr. Bouachrine, 54, founder and columnist of the daily Akhbar Al Yaoum, suffers from diabetes and is the target of "persecutions" and "ill-treatment inflicted by the prison establishment on him", his wife Asmae Moussaoui said in a message addressed to AFP.

Due to complications related to his diabetes, he "has been suffering from terrible pain in his shoulder for three years (...) and the prison doctor advised him to continue treatment in a hospital outside the prison. prison,” she explains.

The penitentiary establishment accepted that he continue this treatment outside the prison "but on condition that he be handcuffed and wear the uniform of the criminals, which was refused by the journalist, seeing it as an attack on his dignity and his humanity", explains Ms. Moussaoui.

In another press release published on her Facebook page, the journalist's wife calls "to intervene urgently by all possible means to help him".

Asked by AFP, the prison administration (DGAPR) did not react immediately, but in a "clarification" published last weekend, it had assured that "the TB prisoner (...) benefits from the care necessary health care both within the penitentiary establishment and in external hospitals".

Taoufik Bouachrine was sentenced to 15 years in prison for "rape", "trafficking in human beings" and "sexual assault" against several women. He denied these accusations.

Faced with criticism, the Moroccan authorities respond that Mr. Bouachrine was tried in the context of a common law case that has no connection with his freedom of expression, highlighting "the independence of justice".

The NGO Amnesty International recently accused the prison administration of "depriving the right to read and write" of imprisoned human rights defenders and journalists, including Mr. Bouachrine, Omar Radi, and Soulaimane Raissouni. Charges denied by the prison administration.

In the latest world press freedom ranking published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) for the year 2023, Morocco slipped to 144th place (-9).

A recent European Parliament resolution expressing concern about the deterioration of press freedom in Morocco has sparked the wrath of the Moroccan political class and media.

Moroccan justice also rejected Thursday the appeal in cassation of the opponent Mohamed Ziane, former Minister of Human Rights, according to his lawyer.

A famous lawyer, having notably defended Taoufik Bouachrine, Mr. Ziane was arrested and imprisoned on November 21 after being sentenced on appeal to three years in prison.

Aged 80, he was prosecuted, under a complaint from the Ministry of the Interior, for 11 counts, including "contempt of public officials and justice", "insult against a constituted body", “defamation”, “adultery” or even “sexual harassment”.

The former president of Rabat, who has not spared his criticism of power in recent years, claims to have been tried "because of his opinions".

In a report published in July 2022, the NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) denounced in Morocco the use of trials for ordinary crimes, in particular sexual crimes, as "techniques of repression" aimed at silencing journalists and opponents.

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