Morocco: Internet writer jailed for insult

***UPDATE: English PEN welcomes the release, pending appeal, of internet writer Mohammed Erraji on 10 September 2008. However, we continue to protest the two-year jail sentence and fine of 5,000 dirhams (430 euros) handed down to him on 8 September 2008 for criticising King Mohammed in an online article. We consider the sentence to be in violation of his right to free expression as guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by Morocco, and are therefore calling for the charges to be dropped and the sentence to be quashed. ***

English PEN protests the two-year jail sentence and fine of 5,000 dirhams (430 euros) handed down to internet writer Mohammed Erraji on 8 September 2008 for criticising King Mohammed in an online article.


According to our information, Mohamed Erraji was arrested on 4 September 2008 for an article published in the online news website Hespress (www.hespress.com) accusing Morocco’s monarchy of encouraging a culture of dependency. He argued in the article that the north African kingdom had been destroyed by the practice of handing out charity or gifts such as taxi licences to a lucky few, which encouraged people to rely on hand-outs. He was reportedly tried in the southern city of Agadir without the presence of a defence lawyer, at a trial which did not conform with international standards of fairness. He was convicted of “disrespect for the king” under article 41 of the Moroccan press law for the article entitled “King encourages dependency on handouts”.

Erraji is the Agadir correspondent for Hespress, and writes regularly for the site. Since March 2007 he has also kept a blog called “Mohamed Erraji’s world” in which he writes about political and social issues. To see Erraji’s blog, please click here.


Erraji is said to come from a poor family in the small town of Biougra near Agadir, and to be in poor health. He is presently being held in Inzegane prison, near Agadir. His family is appealing the sentence. 


English PEN considers Mohammed Erraji to be detained in violation of his right to free expression as guaranteed by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and calls for his immediate and unconditional release. Erraji is said to be in poor health, and PEN seeks immediate guarantees that he is being treated humanely and with full access to any necessary medical treatment.


For an English translation of the article, “King encourages dependency on handouts”, please click here

Please send appeals (preferably in French):

• Protesting the two-year sentence handed down to internet writer Mohammed Erraji at a trial which fell far short of international standards,
• Demanding his immediate and unconditional release in accordance with Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human rights;
• Expressing serious concern for Erraji’s health, and urging that he is treated humanely in detention.

Appeals to:

Abbas El Fassi

Le Premier Ministre

Palais Royal

Touarga

Rabat

Morocco

Fax : 212 037 768656


M. Abdelwahad Radi

Le Ministre de la Justice

Place El Mamoumia

Rabat

Morocco

Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Morocco in your country if possible:

His Excellency Mohammed Belmahi
49 Queen’s Gate Garden
London,
SW7 5NE.
Fax: 020 7225 3862

Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/writersinprison/bulletins/moroccointernetwriterjailedforinsult/

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