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Moroccan journalist Radi protests detention before judge

Moroccan journalist and rights activist Omar Radi, in detention for 11 months accused of espionage and rape, protested his innocence Tuesday in his first appearance before a judge.

The case against him, was empty, he said, and did "do not justify my imprisonment for nearly a year". He was the victim, he said, of people "who consider themselves above the law".

Radi's trial has been postponed to July 6.

The 34-year-old journalist faces charges against him, for rape and for "undermining the internal security of the state", two separate cases that were investigated individually but will be judged together.

Questioned by the judge about text messages he had exchanged with a diplomat from the Dutch embassy in 2018, he dismissed any question of espionage. "Where is the crime in a journalist meeting and exchanging with an official from a foreign country?" he said.

In the rape case, he denied his accuser's claim that their relations had not been consensual.

During Tuesday's hearing, Radi pointed out that the espionage investigation against him had been luanched at the end of June 2020.

Just few days earlier, Amnesty International had published a report saying that the Moroccan authorities had used spyware to monitor his mobile phone, something the authorities have always denied.

Radi's arrest and detention has provoked protests from rights activists, intellectuals and politicians both inside Morocco and abroad.

There have been calls for his release on bail -- and for that of another journalist, Soulaimane Raissouni, who has been charged with sexual assault. He has been on a hunger strike in protest for the lst 83 days.

Last week, his family said he was close to death.

But the courts decided Tuesday to maintain the trial set for 49-year-old Raissouni, who has been held in custody for more than a year.

He has missed the last two legal hearings in his case but has declared himself ready to attend the next, provided he is supplied with an ambulance and a wheelchair.

Raissouni, chief editor of the Akhbar Al Yaoum newspaper, also denies the charges against him.

While the two journalists' supporters have denounced what they say are politically motivated trials against them, the authorities have stressed what they say is the independence of the judiciary.

On Tuesday, the authorities expelled Radi's Belgian lawyer, Christophe Marchand, who arrived had in Casablanca to attend his trial.

Marchand denounced the expulsion as "a fairly brutal reaction connected to Omar Radi's case", in comments to AFP.

He said he had lodged a complaint with the UN's special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers asking him to intervene so he could do his job.

An interior ministry source told AFP: "It's a sovereign decision concerning a person know for his positions, a priori negative and unfounded on Morocco, and Moroccan justice..." 

Topics: Omar Radi , Morocco , espionage , Amnesty International
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