Suspects in court over reported rape of Moroccan teen

Suspects in court over reported rape of Moroccan teen
Family members of 11 young men suspected of multiple charges, including rape, have protested outside a Moroccan court where their first hearing was held.
2 min read
06 September, 2018
Khadija was reportedly held against her will for two months [AFP]

A Moroccan court on Thursday held its first hearing in the case of a 17-year-old girl reportedly gang raped, tortured and forcibly tattooed while held captive for two months.

Family members of 11 young male suspects noisily protested outside the courtroom where the teenager, identified only as Khadija, sat quietly before being summoned before the judge at the closed-door hearing.

The young men face charges ranging from failure to report a crime to abduction, rape, abuse and human trafficking.

"My brother, who is not yet 18, is innocent," said one young woman. "How is she there inside, looking fine and well, while our brothers are pale and sick?" The woman, who refused to give her name, collapsed in grief.

About 20 family members of the suspects raised pictures of King Mohammed VI outside the courtroom, saying he should intervene. At the close of the hearing, the family members chased away Khadija's main lawyer, Brahime Hashane, denouncing him as a liar for defending a "criminal".

Khadija's case has sparked a public outcry in the North African kingdom where violence against women is widespread but largely ignored.

More than 116,600 people have signed a petition urging action to end a culture that turns a blind eye to such violence.

Twelve suspects were initially detained after Khadija was freed in mid-August, and three more were reportedly on the run.

However, only 11 appeared before the investigating judge.

The teen has said in a video interview with Chouf TV that two men kidnapped her at knife-point when she was visiting her aunt during the holy month of Ramadan, between May and July, before selling her to other men in exchange for money or drugs.

She claimed her captors gave her drugs that knocked her out for days at a time.

Reflecting the stigma associated with sexual abuse in this Muslim nation, the girl's parents initially refused to report her case to authorities.

Khadija's mother told The Associated Press in an interview a week ago in the humble family home in the village of Oulad Ayad that Khadija took the initiative to take her case to police.

Youssef Chehbi, a lawyer representing Khadija, said she is "determined to pursue her case and holds firm to her version of events".