Cairo, February 24th 2019,
The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) said that the decision of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, restores the right and amends to Moroccan journalist Tawfiq Bou Achrine, editor of the independent Akhbar al-Youm newspaper, who was sentenced on the evening of November 9th 2018 to 12 years’ imprisonment on allegedly false charges; “Rape, human trafficking and sexual harassment”.
The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued on January 29th a report that confirmed that the charges against Bou Achrine had been unfounded and that it had been ordered in retaliation for his journalistic work and the criticism he had been publishing against the Moroccan government.
The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention called on the Moroccan government to release Tawfiq Bou Achrine and to compensate him financially for his “arbitrary detention”, as well as the commitment of the Moroccan Government to stop repeating such practices which contravenes the Kingdom’s obligations in respect of human rights.
Moreover, The United Nations Human Rights Council called on the Moroccan government to open an independent investigation into the conditions of the arrest of Bou Achrine, and to hold those responsible for his deprivation of liberty for a full year accountable.
It’s worth mentioning that Tawfiq Bou Achrine is one of the most critical voices in the Kingdom. He was arrested on February 23rd, 2018, after security forces in plain civilian outfits had raided the headquarters of the newspaper from where Achrine operates in the city of Casablanca.
He was tried in a case that lacked the merits of a fair trial, where the headquarters of the newspaper was searched without judicial permission, and Bou Achrine was arrested and transferred directly to the Criminal Court in Casablanca as per an order of the Public Prosecution, in contravention of Moroccan law, which allows this to the prosecution only in case of in flagrante delicto related to a felony, according to Article 73 of the Moroccan Criminal Code, which was not applied in the Bou Achrine case.
The Court had also refrained from responding to numerous important and necessary defense requests for fair trial procedures.
This is not the first time for Bou Achrine to be prosecuted for his journalistic work, as he was convicted of defamation in 2015, in a case filed against him by former Finance Minister Mohammed Bou Said and Agriculture Minister Aziz Akhnouch, and in 2009 he was sentenced to 4 years’ suspended sentence, after the publication of caricatures considered offensive to the royal family, and national flag.
Also, it’s noteworthy that the Moroccan government resolves to ethically shaming charges for a number of journalists aiming to stop them from criticizing the leading characters in the Moroccan authority, where before journalist Hisham Mansouri was accused of similar charges.
ANHRI calls on the Moroccan government to respond to the demands mentioned in the report of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the release of Tawfiq Bou Achrine in the appeal session scheduled for tomorrow.
Also, ANHRI calls on the Moroccan government to stop pursuing and arresting journalists through unfair trials and falsifying shameful cases to oppress expression of opinion and to conceal administrative corruption in the authority.