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Morocco hands dissident historian one year prison sentence

Historian Maati Monjib has been sentenced to prison [Getty]

Date of publication: 28 January, 2021

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A Moroccan court has sentenced dissident historian and human rights activist Maati Monjib to prison.

A Moroccan court has sentenced historian and human rights activist Maati Monjib to one year in prison for fraud and undermining state security, one of his lawyers said Thursday.

The ruling was handed down by Rabat's court of first instance in the absence of the 60-year-old, who remains in pre-trial detention, said Abdelaziz Nouidi.

The defence team had not been told the verdict would be issued on Wednesday at a hearing Monjib did not attend, the lawyer told AFP.

Monjib was arrested last month after prosecutors said they had seized evidence of money transfers and real estate assets beyond the means of the historian and his family.

Amnesty International had on Wednesday urged Morocco to release Monjib and drop all charges, saying the kingdom was on a "relentless quest" to curtail his right to freedom of expression and "bully him into submission".

Moroccan and overseas activists and intellectuals had also signed a petition calling for the historian's release.

Monjib, who has in the past openly accused Morocco of "terrorising journalists and opponents in general", had remained at large until his arrest in late December.

He said at the time that these accusations were "not new" and had already been part of a trial for "financial embezzlement" and "undermining state security", which opened in 2015 but had been repeatedly adjourned.

Wednesday's ruling, which also involved six Moroccan journalists and human rights activists, was published on a justice ministry website accessible to lawyers.

The six other defendants in the case were given various sentences: three received one year in prison, another a three month suspended sentence and the last two fines of 5,000 dirhams ($550). 

Monjib was also fined 10,000 dirhams.

Human Rights Watch noted in its 2021 global rights report that Morocco last year "cracked down harder on social media commentators, artists and journalists critical of the monarchy".

The government's own rights commission rejected such accusations as "lies" and Rabat insists its judiciary is independent.

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