Moroccan court slaps three year sentence on journalist

Moroccan court slaps three year sentence on journalist
Rights groups have criticised authorities for the arrest and jail sentence, saying Hamid El Mahdaoui did not commit a crime.
2 min read
29 June, 2018
Hamid El Mahdaoui was sentenced to jail on Thursday [Twitter]
A Moroccan court sentenced on Thursday journalist Hamid El Mahdaoui to three years in prison, charging him with not reporting a crime against state security after a tip from a Moroccan national abroad he planned to bring in arms.

Mahdaoui was arrested in July 2017 in the northern Rif city of al-Hoceima. 

"This is a cruel sentence against a citizen and a journalist who did not commit any criminal activity," said his sister Nadia El Mahdaoui. "We hope the appeals court will acquit my brother".

Mahdaoui covers unrest in the northern Rif region.

His verdict comes one day after the same Casablanca court sentenced the leader of the protest movement Nasser Zafzafi to 20 years in jail. The court said he undermined national unity. 

Sentences were also handed out to Rif protest activists, and the terms ranged from one year to 20. Human rights activist told Reuters it showed "the state wants to intimidate people and deter street protests".

"The sentence runs against the rule of law and taints Morocco's justice system as Mahdaoui did not commit a crime," said Mohamed El Hini, his lawyer. "If Mahdaoui reported such a crime he will be ridiculed or even accused of reporting an imaginary crime."

Protests broke out in Rif in October 2016, when a fishmonger was crushed to death by a garbage truck while protesting against the confiscation of his fish by police.

The Rif region erupted into riots, with protesters demanding jobs, funding for the impoverished area and an end to alleged government corruption.

The al-Hoceima demonstrations - along with the protests that hit Jerada in early 2018 - have been the most intense since the 2011 unrest that had prompted King Mohammed VI to devolve some of his powers to an elected parliament.

Agencies contributed to this report. 

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