Morocco arrests, deports Belgian lawyer defending opposition journalist

Morocco arrests, deports Belgian lawyer defending opposition journalist
A Belgian criminal law attorney was arrested arriving at Morocco and barred from entering the country. He was going to defend an opposition journalist in jail since last year.
2 min read
30 June, 2021
Omar Radi has been in jail in Morocco since last year [Anadolu Agency/Getty Images]

A Belgian law firm said on Tuesday that authorities in Morocco detained a Belgian lawyer and barred him from entering the country after he was scheduled to attend the trial of an opposition journalist.

Brussels-based law firm Jus Cogens said in a statement – published by Moroccan news site Lakome – that Moroccan authorities arrested criminal law attorney Cristophe Marchand at Mohammed V Airport on Monday evening and prevented him from entering the country, before ordering he be sent back from where he came.

The statement explained that Marchand had flown to Morocco to attend the trial session of journalist Omar Radi, which was held Tuesday noon at the court of appeal in Casablanca.

In a video broadcast on his official Facebook page, the lawyer said he spent the night on a bench in the airport's transit area, wrapped in his uniform, after his passport was confiscated from him.

He said he was deported early on Tuesday.

Marchand made an urgent appeal to the UN's special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, to call on Morocco to allow him to enter the country and carry out his duties for his client.

According to a previous statement by Humans Rights Watch, Radi, an independent journalist, is known for his criticism of Morrocco's human rights record and exposing corruption in the kingdom.

In March last year he was given a four-month suspended prison sentence for a tweet he posted criticising a court judge for his unfair trial procedures of jailed Moroccan activists.

On July 29, 2020, the public prosecutor in Casablanca brought a range of charges against Radi, including espionage based on his journalistic work and research for international NGOs, as well as rape and sexual assault.

Radi strongly denied all those charges, and has previously said he is being targeted for political reasons.

He was remanded in custody in the city's Okasha prison on the same day.