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Morocco: Free activist Rida Benotmane immediately and drop all charges against him

Ahead of tomorrow’s hearing by a court in Rabat on the case of human rights defender Rida Benotmane, who is being prosecuted for criticising the authorities on YouTube and Facebook, Amna Guellali, Deputy director for Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International said:


“The only ‘crime’ Rida Benotmane has committed was to air legitimate grievances against the authorities in a few social media posts and videos. His case is just the latest attempt by the authorities to use absurd prosecutions to silence critical voices and highlights the worrying crackdown in Morocco on freedom of expression.

The only ‘crime’ Rida Benotmane has committed was to air legitimate grievances against the authorities in a few social media posts and videos

Amna Guellali, Amnesty International


“Rida Benotmane should be freed immediately and these bogus charges against him dropped. The Moroccan authorities must ensure that people are able to exercise their freedom of expression without fear of reprisals.”


Amnesty International has reviewed court files showing that the National Judicial Police Brigade (BNPJ) in Casablanca interrogated Rida Benotmane over a Facebook post he published on 13 September 2021, which called for a public march against abuses by security forces. Police also questioned him over two YouTube videos published in August 2021, in which he denounced the authorities for ignoring people’s demands for social justice and warned against the potential use of COVID vaccine passes as a tool of repression.

Benotmane was arrested on 9 September and charged the next day with “insulting a body regulated by law”, “insulting public officials while carrying out their duties”, and “broadcasting and distributing false allegations without consent” under articles 265, 263, and 447-2 of the Penal Code respectively. He was also charged with breaching the decree law on the state of health emergency. He will appear before the Rabat first instance court on 22 September.

Benotmane, a member of the Moroccan Association for the defense of human rights (AMDH) and a political activist who has already spent four years in jail, is currently on hunger strike in protest at his detention.

Background

Moroccan authorities have increasingly targeted dissenting voices in recent months.

In April 2022, Saida el Alami, a human rights defender and member of the “Femmes Marocaines Contre la Detention Politique” collective, was sentenced to two years in prison for posting about her ill-treatment by the police and for criticizing the repression of journalists and activists. Blogger Rabie al-Ablaq was also sentenced in the same month to four years in prison for offending the king in two videos posted on social media.