Moroccan appeals court upholds six-year prison sentence for dissident journalist Omar Radi

Moroccan journalist and human rights activist Omar Radi has been sentenced to six years in prison for espionage and rape.

Radi, a 35-year-old freelance journalist known to be an outspoken critic of the authorities, has maintained his innocence throughout his two-year trial.

“My only mistake is to demand independent justice,” Radi told the judge’s ruling on Thursday, to applause from his supporters in the courtroom.

On charges of undermining state security with “foreign funding” and rape, Radi was initially sentenced last July.

His trial began in 2020 just days after human rights group Amnesty International said Moroccan authorities had planted Pegasus spyware on his mobile phone – a claim Morocco denies.

Human rights activists, intellectuals and politicians at home and abroad protested the arrest and detention of Radi.

Earlier this week, the prosecution called for the “maximum punishment” against him. Rape is punishable by up to ten years in prison.

After upholding the original ruling, defense attorney Miloud Kandil described it as a “very difficult verdict”.

“We disclosed to the court all the elements that prove Omar al-Radi’s innocence, but unfortunately nothing was taken into account,” he told AFP.

In the same case, fellow journalist Imad Sitto was sentenced to one year in prison.

Stito, initially presented as the prosecution’s sole witness, was said to have been present with Radi when he allegedly raped a woman.

Stito left Morocco for Tunisia and was tried in absentia.

Radi is the latest in a series of harsh sentences handed down against journalists in the North African kingdom and neighboring Algeria.

Authorities in both countries have arrested and prosecuted journalists on charges ranging from harming national interests to sexual assault.

Morocco is currently ranked 136th out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index.

(AFP)

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