Morocco: Journalist Soulaimane Raissouni faces 10 years in prison

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The prosecutor's office on Monday requested a maximum sentence of ten years in prison for Moroccan journalist Soulaimane Raissouni, who was sentenced in the first instance to five years in prison for "sexual aggression".

A 49-year-old columnist known for his critical tone towards authorities was accused of "sexual assault" by a young LGBTQ activist. He denies this accusation, saying he is being prosecuted "because of his opinions". Arrested in May 2020, he did not attend most of his trials between February and July 2021 due to a 122-day hunger strike.

"The evidence is irrefutable that Mr Raissouni is guilty," the prosecutor said during a hearing on Monday before the Casablanca court of appeal. The former editor-in-chief of the newspaper Akhbar Al Yaoum - which was closed due to financial difficulties - remained unemotional when the prosecution requested ten years in prison.

According to the prosecution, the complainant's "courageous" statements, as well as messages and an audio recording of an alleged conversation between him and the journalist - not broadcast until now - "clearly demonstrate the guilt" of Soulaimane Raissouni. Indecent assault with violence "is punishable by five to ten years' imprisonment," according to the Moroccan criminal code.

Release from prison

The civil party asked for the confirmation of the first instance judgment - five years’ imprisonment - and an increase in damages from 100,000 to 500,000 dirhams (more than 47,000 euros). As for the defence, it reaffirmed Soulaimane Raissouni's "innocence" and demanded that his conviction be quashed.

The courts have so far rejected all requests for his release. His support committee in Morocco condemns the trial as "political and vindictive. Reporters Without Borders wants him to be released pending a "fair trial.

The Moroccan authorities replied that Soulaimane Raissouni had received a "fair" trial and that the proceedings "had nothing to do with his journalistic work. The trial will resume on 7 February with the defence case.

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