Moroccan journalist faces trial for Western Sahara comments

Moroccan journalist faces trial for Western Sahara comments
Ali Anouzla, a Moroccan journalist, is facing charges of "undermining national territorial integrity" over comments he made about the Western Sahara suggesting it was "occupied territory", which he denies.
2 min read
24 January, 2016
The Western Sahara has been subject of a decades-long dispute [Getty]
Moroccan journalist Ali Anouzla is to stand trial next month over comments about the Western Sahara that he made to the German press, he said on Sunday.

The head of the Lakome2 website faces charges of "undermining national territorial integrity" at a trial due to begin on February 9, he told AFP.

The prosecution service opened an investigation after he mentioned the Western Sahara as one of three "red lines" for Moroccan journalists in an interview published last month in the German newspaper Bild, he said.

Bild reported that he listed these limits as "the monarchy, Islam and the occupied Western Sahara".

Anouzla, who faces up to five years in jail if convicted, said he never called the Western Sahara "occupied" and called the translation "inexact".

Morocco claims sovereignty over the mineral-rich territory, but the Algeria-backed Polisario Front has been campaigning for its independence since 1973.

UN efforts to organise a referendum on the territory's future have been resisted by Rabat.

The charges against Anouzla come as he faces others of defending and inciting "terrorism" in another case.

Anouzla was arrested in September 2013 after publishing a link on his website to an al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb video on Morocco.

Western Sahara, a desert territory in north-west Africa, has been the subject of a decades-long dispute between Morocco and the Algerian-backed Polisario Front, a militant group made up of native Sahrawis calling for independence.

The territory is rich in natural resources, such as phosphate and offshore oil deposits.

Morocco has occupied Western Sahara since the withdrawal of colonial Spain in 1975, fighting a guerrilla war with the Polisario Front.