On January 17, investigative journalist Hicham Mansouri was released after serving 10 months in prison for allegedly committing adultery. While his release was expected, it brought much needed celebration to the case that began last year against seven human rights defenders including Hicham. Photo credit: Samia Errazzouki
"We are of course very happy to see Hicham free and able to explain in his own words what actually happened, how the police, the judiciary and the prison officers mistreated him,” says the committees spokesperson Abdou Berrada. “But we cannot hide our anger at this treatment, unfit for a state that claims respect for the rule of law."
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In less than ten days Hicham will have to go on trial again, this time for charges related to threatening the internal security of the State. Four others, Maati Monjib, Mohammad Essabr, Hisham Khribchi and Abdessamad lach, will also go on trial for the same charges. Two others, Maria Moukrim and Rachid Jankari will go on trial for receiving foreign funding without notifying the General Secretariat of the government.
Hicham's release coincided with a press conference on Sunday 17th of January, that took place at the headquarters of the Moroccan Human Rights Association (AMDH). During the press conference the support committee set up by lawyers and supporters of the seven, denounced the violations against Hicham in accordance with Morocco's Penal Code and urged the Moroccan authorities to drop the charges against the seven human rights defenders.
The Moroccan government launched a campaign against human rights defenders in the country through which they are structurally targeting associations and persons working to promote basic freedoms. The case of the seven human rights defenders is a clear contradiction to the Constitution of the Moroccan government, that in principle protects the same people who are now being charged.
Fight for freedom of speech
Another spokesperson for the support committee, Fouad Abdelmoumni said, ““This trial shows how far we are and how close we can be from the rule of law in Morocco. That’s why it’s absolutely important to make this situation a showcase for the fight for the freedom of speech, freedom of access to information, freedom of press and the right to a fair trial.”
On October 17th 2016, the 118th session of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), ratified by Morocco on May 3, 1979, will take place. During this session Morocco's civil and political rights records will be reviewed. Morocco will have to provide an explanation for the series of actions against human rights defenders and journalists which violate the commitments they have made to human rights.
Free Press Unlimited believes that there are no justifications for the systematic and continuous harassment of journalists and human rights defenders. The organization therefore wants to shed light on the importance of upholding commitments made to protecting human rights by reminding the Moroccan government of the allegiances it has made in this regard.
Free Press Unlimited is deeply concerned about the seven human rights defenders and urge the Moroccan authorities to drop the charges against them.
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Show your support by signing the petition to drop charges against the seven.
The next trial is scheduled for January 27th in Rabat.