Omar Radi: Moroccan justice condemns a journalist critical of power to six years in prison for rape | International

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The journalist Omar Radi, critical of power, has been sentenced this Monday by the Court of Appeal of Casablanca, to six years in prison, in a trial where he was accused of rape and of attacking State security through espionage for a foreign country. Radi, who had been denounced in July 2020 by a woman with the initials H. B., always declared that the relationship was consensual. The journalist had the support throughout the process of the main local and international humanitarian associations, which requested a fair trial.

For his part, Imad Stitou, the only witness present at the house where the events took place, has been sentenced to six months of probation for alleged complicity in rape, after testifying in favor of his friend and colleague Omar Radi.

Omar Radi, who has served 35 years in prison this Sunday, July 18, is a journalist and human rights activist well known in Morocco and in the newsrooms of the main international media. Radi already spent five days in prison at the end of 2019 for criticizing in a tweet a judge who had given sentences of several decades in prison for four of the main protesters in the Al Hoceima protests that began at the end of 2017. nor pardon for these civil servants without dignity! ”, read Radi's tweet. Now his supporters keep tweeting: "Neither forget nor forgive."

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Months after that tweet, in June 2020, his face jumped to the pages of 17 international newspapers, such as The Washington Post, The Guardian, Le Monde and EL PAÍS, when Amnesty International (AI) revealed that his mobile phone had been spied on with Pegasus, a program developed by the Israeli company NSO that is only available to governments that fight crime and terrorism. The Moroccan government denied the NGO's accusation. And several days after the publication of that article, Radi was called to the police station up to ten times. The Moroccan prosecutor's office opened an investigation against him for alleged espionage.

The sentence against Radi was known the same day that, again, an investigation carried out by Amnesty International and a consortium of 17 international newspapers, including Le Monde Y The Washington Post, revealed that the phones of 180 journalists from various countries have been spied on by the governments of countries such as Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Mexico, through the Pegasus program. The Moroccan government described the information as "false" in a statement. However, several activists close to Radi have spread hundreds of messages since last Sunday in which they recall that the Moroccan journalist was accused of espionage after "having been spied on."

Radi's trial has been held almost in parallel with that of journalist Suleimán Raisuni, who was sentenced on Friday, July 9, to five years in prison for alleged sexual assault against an LGTB activist. Raisuni had been in custody since May 20, 2020 and Radi since July 29. The two were isolated in two cells in the Ukacha prison in Casablanca. They both went on a hunger strike, which Radi called off. Raisuni has served more than 100 days since going on strike. His wife and those close to him fear for his life while the country's prison authorities indicated that Raisuni maintains his vital signs in perfect condition.

Both Suleimán Raisuni and Omar Radi denounced the politicization of their case. They claimed to be victims of "judicial cruelty" because of their writings against the government. The Moroccan Human Rights Association (AMDH), as well as Reporters without Borders and Human Rights Watch, demanded a fair trial for both journalists, with due procedural guarantees.

The US promised to follow the process of Radi

The cases of Raisuni and Radi have had a great international repercussion. But the highest level was reached last Monday, when US diplomatic spokesman Ned Price openly criticized Morocco in relation to press freedom. The State Department spokesman indicated that the process against these journalists contradicts the promises made by the 2011 Constitution and the reform program of the King, Mohamed VI. And he warned that he would closely follow the evolution of the trial of journalist Omar Radi.

The intervention of the White House did not have an official response from Moroccan diplomacy. But there has been a semi-official response from the prison director, Mohamed Salah Tamek, who has expressed himself as a "Moroccan citizen and former diplomat."

"By virtue of what heavenly law do you dare to interfere in a matter of Moroccan justice, which has condemned a Moroccan citizen, whose name you have not even been able to pronounce correctly and preach to Moroccans like a teacher to their almunos?" Malek asked in a statement first released by the site Hespress, the most widely distributed, and then by the official MAP agency.

"By what right," Malek continued, "do you assume the power to judge with all arrogance what is in accordance with the Moroccan Constitution and what is not?" "What gives you the right to discriminate between important citizens like the ones you have named – referring to Raisuni and Radi – and those you despise and judge to be good at crushing, like Adam and Hafsa – the whistleblowers of both? journalists-?".

Omar Radi has already served almost a year in prison in preventive detention, of the six to which he has been sentenced. And Raisuni has already spent a year and two months also in preventive regime, of the five to which he was sentenced. Raisuni has been on hunger strike for three months.

The sentence has been known two days before the Feast of the Lamb is celebrated, the most sacred and celebrated in Islam, where all the families usually meet.

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