- Anas Tadili, editor of the weekly 'Akhbar al-Ousbouaâ', has been sentenced to six months in prison for "defamation". The editor in April had published an article detailing alleged homosexual sex of a Moroccan Minister at a holiday resort in Morocco.
According to reports from the Paris-based media watchdog Reporters sans Frontières (RSF), a Rabat court this week sentenced Mr Tadili to six months in prison with no parole. He was earlier charged with "defamation, vilification of a government official and spreading false news".
Mr Tadili, who has been jailed in Salé's prison since 15 April, was also sentenced to 10 months in prison with no parole on separate charges, and is scheduled to be tried on further defamation charges on 15 June, according to RSF.
On 9 April, Mr Tadili's newspaper had published an article entitled "Homosexuality and the political class in Morocco", detailing the homosexual adventures of a government minister at a holiday resort in northern Morocco.
The article was questioning the morality of the Minister. While homosexuality is widely practiced in Morocco - in particular in holiday resorts, where men-to-men encounters are openly displayed - it remains a social taboo and is generally considered bad moral.
Though the government official was not named in the 'Akhbar al-Ousbouaâ' article, the story was clearly aimed at the Minister of Finance, who, in turn, reportedly pressured the Justice Minister to jail the 'Akhbar al-Ousbouaâ' editor.
On the morning of 15 April, Mr Tadili was arrested after being summoned to Rabat police headquarters for a legal matter dating back to 1994. He was ordered to pay an on-the-spot fine of three million dirhams (approximately euro 270,000) for evading foreign exchange regulations, and when he was unable to come up with the funds, he was incarcerated.
In 1994, the editor had been charged with evading foreign exchange regulations after opening an account abroad. He received a six-month suspended sentence and a three-million dirham fine, but appealed the ruling. In 2001, the ruling was confirmed by the Appeals Court.
Since Mr Tadili had never paid this fine, his detention on 15 April was expedited without difficulty, and he was later sentenced to 10 months in prison with no parole. The defamation complaint that followed the publication of the 9 April 2004 article was only filed after Mr Tadili's incarceration.
RSF in an earlier statement had expressed the group was "extremely concerned" over the abrupt imprisonment of Mr Tadili. The Paris group in April said it feared Mr Tadili "may have been detained for an article published in his newspaper, and that the arrest was in fact the result of political pressure."
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