Dozen suspects arrested in Morocco over horrific gang rape
Twelve suspects have been arrested by Moroccan police over the alleged gang rape of a teenage girl, a court official said Tuesday, in a case that has sparked outrage in the North African kingdom.
In a video posted online last week, Khadija Okkarou, 17, said members of a "dangerous gang" had kidnapped and held her for two months, raping and torturing her.
In the video, she showed what appeared to be scars from cigarette burns and tatoos carved into parts of her body.
"I will never forgive them. They have destroyed me," she said.
Her testimony triggered a social media campaign under the "we are all Khadija" hashtag.
Thousands of Moroccans signed a petition urging authorities to provide urgent medical and psychological care to the teenage girl.
A judge in the central city of Beni Mellal is investigating the suspects, all aged between 18 and 27, the court official said.
The main suspect, aged 20, is being held on suspicion of rape, torture, kidnapping, making death threats and forming a gang, the official said.
Ten others potentially face similar charges, while a 12th is under investigation for failing to report a crime and failing to help a person in danger.
Okkarou "is still in shock even if she tries to be strong", said Loubna El Joud of women's rights group NSAT, which is providing her with medical and psychological support.
"Her hands shake when she speaks."
Rape victims in Morocco are often subject to a double trauma as the conservative society blames them for their ordeal.
In recent days, relatives of the suspects quoted in the Moroccan press have accused Okkarou of lying, saying she lived a "depraved" lifestyle.
Sexual harassment is commonplace in Morocco, despite the adoption of a new constitution in 2011 that enshrines gender equality and urges the state to promote it.
In January 2014, Morocco scrapped a controversial law that allowed child rapists to escape punishment if they marry their victims.
Last year, 1,600 cases of rape were heard by Moroccan courts, twice as many as previous years.