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The New Arab Staff

Moroccan media workers call for release of hunger striking journalists held in pre-trial detention

Omar Al-Radi has been accused of sexual assault and espionage [Getty]

Date of publication: 15 April, 2021

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Moroccan journalists have called on authorities to release Suleiman Raissouni and Omar Al-Radi, who have been held for several month on pre-trail detention.
Moroccan journalists yesterday called on authorities to release two media workers who have been held in pre-trial detention for several months. 

Appealing to the government, 160 journalists requested that Suleiman Raissouni and Omar Al-Radi be released and be given a free and fair trial that is open to the media.

The two journalists, who are facing charges of sexual assault and espionage, have denied the charges.

Last week, they  started a hunger strike to protest their continued detention. 

The protesting journalists demanded "a breakthrough in human rights in the country, and respect for the rights of journalists to exercise their right to expression".

It is widely believed that the two men were imprisoned because of criticism of Morocco's human rights record

Radi was previously jailed in 2019 for claiming on Twitter that imprisoned Hirak Al-Rif activists were subject to unfair trials.

In light of the start of their hunger strike, protesting journalists have called on the two men to consider their health and "preserve their lives".

Idris Al-Radi, the father of Omar, has said that his son suffers from numerous health complaints. 

"My son's health is very poor inside the prison. He has lost about ten kilograms since his arrest, and he suffers from asthma and another chronic disease in the intestine, which is required continuous treatment," he explained to Euro-Med Monitor.

Raissouni's family also explained that their son is in poor health, due in part to his incarceration. 

"Suleiman has been subjected to solitary confinement since his detention, and he has lost about 15 kilograms of weight. In addition, he suffers from chronic high blood pressure, which makes his hunger strike incredibly dangerous to his health," said his family

Journalists and activists in Morocco have faced increased levels of repression in recent years for speaking out against the government. 

"Bringing apparently bogus charges against critical journalists is now clearly part of the Moroccan government’s playbook for stifling dissent," said Eric Goldstein, acting Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

"The espionage charges and a cascade of other charges appear concocted to take Omar Radi down," he added.

Read more: How Morocco-Israel normalisation could push Algeria closer to Russia

Euro-Med Monitor urged the Moroccan authorities to follow proper judicial procedure, to ensure transparency and fairness. 

"If the charges against journalists for sexual assault are valid, the Moroccan authorities should investigate them urgently and ensure a fair trial instead of keeping journalists in pretrial detention for an indefinite period," said Omar Al-Ajlouni, legal researcher at the Euro-Med Monitor.

According to Al-Ajlouni, individuals in Morocco cannot be held for longer than one month, when a misdemeanour case, and authorities may only requisition two extensions to this period of detention.

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