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AFP
November 11, 2018

Dissident Moroccan publisher jailed on sexual assault charges

World

AFP
November 11, 2018

RABAT: A Moroccan court has handed a 12 year prison sentence to a newspaper publisher charged with sexual assault, in a trial his lawyers said was politically motivated.

The Casablanca court had found Taoufiq Bouachrine guilty of human trafficking, abuse of power for sexual purposes, rape and attempted rape.

The publisher, sentenced late on Friday, has maintained his innocence throughout.

He was arrested in February at the offices of his independent Arabic-language daily newspaper Akhbar Al-Yaum, known for editorials and cartoons critical of the authorities.

On Friday, defence lawyer Mohamed Ziane told AFP Bouachrine had been the "victim of a political trial" because of his writings.

"In the Arab world, we still don’t understand the meaning of press freedom," Ziane said.

Bouachrine has been critical of public figures including billionaire agriculture minister Aziz Akhannouch and the North African kingdom’s ally, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Another member of his defence team, Abdelmoula El Marouri, cited government sources saying the Saudi embassy in Rabat had raised an official complaint over two of the publisher’s editorials.

But prosecution lawyer Mohammed Karout called the trial "a criminal case, with facts and victims". "There is no relationship between expressing political positions and committing sexual assault," he said.

Rape trials are rare in Morocco, where victims fear social repercussions in a society that remains largely conservative. The court ordered Bouachrine to pay the plaintiffs compensation ranging from 100,000 to 500,000 dirhams.

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