Morocco/Western Sahara: Court hands journalist four month suspended sentence and fine for a tweet

A court in Morocco has today handed journalist Omar Radi a four-month suspended prison sentence and a fine of 500 Dirham (52 USD) for a tweet in which he criticized an appeal court judge for upholding heavy prison sentences against activists from the Hirak El-Rif social justice movement. Responding to the court’s decision, Heba Morayef, MENA Regional Director at Amnesty International, said:

he should never have been put on trial in the first place or sentenced for expressing peaceful views on social media
Heba Morayef

“Omar Radi is an outspoken critic of Morocco’s crackdown on human rights defenders, who has shone a spotlight on the country’s appalling treatment of journalists and dissidents. In April 2019, he tweeted about the unfair trial of a group of fellow activists, and he is now being punished for this.

“Even though today’s verdict means Radi won’t serve time in prison, he should never have been put on trial in the first place or sentenced for expressing peaceful views on social media.  This sentence reinforces the message that anyone in Morocco who stands up for human rights will be punished.

This sentence reinforces the message that anyone in Morocco who stands up for human rights will be punished
Heba Morayef

“We call on the Moroccan authorities to immediately and unconditionally quash the sentence and release all other individuals prosecuted and convicted solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression.”

Background

Omar Radi was arrested on 26 December then provisionally released from pre-trial detention while his trial continued.

 

On 5 April 2019, the Casablanca Court of Appeals upheld prison sentences of up to 20 years against 43 men for their involvement in the Hirak El-Rif protests that took place in Morocco’s northern Rif region throughout 2017. The 43 individuals, who include journalists and activists, were convicted after a trial marred by allegations of torture and other human rights violations.

Since November 2019, the Moroccan authorities have arrested at least nine activists, subjecting them to interrogations, prosecution and prison sentences for "offending" or "insulting" the King, the Monarchy or "public officials or institutions".