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Morocco: Court upholds six-year sentence for journalist Omar Radi

Amnesty International says the conviction violated the journalist's right to a fair trial
Journalist and activist Omar Radi waits outside court in Casablanca, Morocco on 12 March 2020 (Reuters)

Moroccan journalist and rights activist Omar Radi has been sentenced on appeal to six years in prison on espionage and rape charges, accusations he denies.

Radi, a 35-year-old freelance journalist known as a vocal critic of the authorities, has insisted on his innocence throughout the two-year trial.

He said he had consensual sex with his accuser and rejected all espionage accusations.

"My only fault is to have demanded independent justice," Radi said before the judge's verdict on Thursday, to applause from supporters in the courtroom.

Accused of rape and of undermining state security with "foreign financing", Radi was initially sentenced last July

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His trial began in 2020, just days after human rights group Amnesty International said Moroccan authorities had planted Pegasus spyware on his cellphone - a claim denied by Morocco.

Earlier this week, the prosecution had called for "the maximum sentence" against him. Rape is punishable in Morocco by up to 10 years in prison.

After the original sentence was upheld, defence lawyer Miloud Kandil called it "a very hard judgement". 

"We have exposed all the elements proving the innocence of Omar Radi before the court but sadly nothing has been taken into account," he told AFP.

Unfair trial 

Rights activists, intellectuals and politicians - in Morocco and abroad - have protested Radi's arrest and detention.

Middle East countries amongst highest jailers of journalists in 2020 
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“This conviction was based on trials that violated Omar Radi’s right to a fair trial, including limited access to his lawyers, denying the defence team the right to cross-examine prosecution witnesses, excluding defence witnesses and other abuses,” Amnesty International said on Thursday.

“Authorities must grant Omar Radi a fair retrial.” 

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

Stitou, who was initially presented as the sole witness for the prosecution, was said to have been present with Radi when he allegedly raped a woman.

Stitou left Morocco for Tunisia and was tried in absentia.

Morocco is currently ranked 136th out of 180 countries on the watchdog RSF's World Press Freedom Index. 

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