Saturday, September 13, 2008
MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA
2. MOROCCO: BLOGGER JAILED FOR TWO YEARS FOR CRITICISING KING
A Moroccan blogger who wrote an article criticising the King was sentenced
to two years in jail after a startling short trial, report the Arabic
Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), International PEN's Writers
in Prison Committee (WiPC) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
On 8 September, the court of Agadir in southern Morocco condemned Mohammed
Erraji to two years' imprisonment and a fine of 5,000 Moroccan dirhams
(US$620) for "failure to uphold the respect due to the King". His trial
reportedly lasted 10 minutes. According to WiPC, Erraji is in poor health.
Erraji was arrested on 4 September following the publication on the online
news site Hespress.com of an article accusing Morocco's monarchy of
encouraging a culture of dependency. He argued that the King's custom of
granting favours, such as taxi licences to a lucky few, encouraged people
to rely on handouts. Read an English translation of the article on the
Global Voices Online website: http://tinyurl.com/5lo2ol
"Erraji was given a summary trial for which he had no time to find a lawyer
and was unable to defend himself," says RSF. "The Moroccan blogosphere is
known for being dynamic, so this is big step backwards for the kingdom."
Erraji is the first Moroccan blogger to be prosecuted and convicted for an
article posted online. He is Hespress.com's Agadir correspondent and writes
regularly for the site. He also has his own blog published under his real
name, "The World of Mohammed Erraji", that was started in March 2007 and
deals mainly with political and social issues.
A website and petition have been setup in solidarity with the blogger at:
http://www.helperraji.com as well as a Facebook group:
In a separate case, newspaper editor Ahmed Reda Benchemsi, who is also
facing charges of disrespect for the King, had his one-year case adjourned
indefinitely last week.
Benchemsi told RSF, "The court was clearly trying to close the case without
having to reach a verdict ... I am supposed to see this decision as a
conciliatory gesture. But the judge can call me back to court whenever he
Visit these links:
- ANHRI: http://www.anhri.net/en/reports/2008/pr0908.shtml
- RSF: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=28449
- RSF on Benchemsi: http://tinyurl.com/6cwvfy
- WiPC (email): Cathy.McCann (@) internationalpen.org.uk
- Help Erraji website: http://www.helperraji.com
- Erraji's blog: http://almassae.maktoobblog.com