Moroccan Journalist on Trial for an Abortion She Says She Never Had

4:49 PM Aida Alami 0 Comments

RABAT, Morocco — This weekend was supposed to have been a celebration of love.
The invitations had been sent, the flowers and cake ordered. Family and friends were getting ready to witness the wedding of a young Moroccan political reporter and a Sudanese university professor she met at a human-rights conference.

Instead, Hajar Raissouni and Rifaat al-Amin were arrested on Aug. 31 as they were leaving a gynecologist’s office in the Moroccan capital Rabat. They were charged with having sex outside of marriage and an abortion, both crimes in the North African kingdom.

The arrests outraged many in Morocco who saw it as another example of the government persecuting critical journalists and activists by charging them with moral crimes.
The doctor, along with an anesthesiologist and an office assistant, has been charged with performing an abortion. But he insists that he did not. Quite the contrary, he said he had saved Ms. Raissouni’s life after she suffered a blood clot.

The Moroccan government casts itself as a champion of women’s rights. But by prosecuting a couple and medical workers for a procedure that is done hundreds of times every day in the country, critics argue that the government undercuts its own claims and exposes its determination to silence dissent.
Ms. Raissouni works for Akhbar al-Yaoum, a daily newspaper that is one of the few independent news sources in Morocco. Though it employs fewer than a dozen reporters and has been in existence for only a decade, the paper and its journalists have found themselves in court many times.

In 2018, its founder and publisher was sentenced to 12 years in prison on sexual assault charges in a prosecution that the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded was unfair.
Ms. Raissouni has focused on human rights and political reporting in her work, said an uncle, Soulaimane Raissouni, who is also the editor of Akhbar al-Yaoum.

“I don’t have hope, and neither does she,” said her uncle and editor. “One of her lawyers told her to prepare herself to spend at least one year in prison.”

Last year, Ms. Raissouni covered protests in the northern Rif region of Morocco that resulted in the jailing of hundreds of activists. Another uncle, Ahmed Raissouni, is a vocal critic of the government.
The press freedom group Reporters Without Borders says the Moroccan government has long tried to intimidate activists and journalists. The courts often put them on trail for matters seemingly unrelated to journalism or political activities, according to the group.

Abdeslam Imani, the prosecutor, said the authorities had not targeted Ms. Raissouni. They had been simply watching the doctor’s clinic to see if unlawful abortions were taking place, he said.
“The arrest of the journalist Hajar Raissouni has no connection whatsoever to her profession,” Mr. Imani said. “It happened by chance when she was in a medical office that was under surveillance.”

You can read the rest of the story on the New York Times' website


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