Morocco journalist in al-Qaeda video case vows to relaunch website

He was arrested September after publishing an article with links to a video attributed to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb

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A Moroccan journalist accused of aiding "terrorism" said Wednesday he would replace his news website, blocked by the authorities after his arrest, if they prevented him from reopening it.

Ali Anouzla was arrested on September 17 after publishing an article on his website Lakome about, and with links to, an inflammatory video attributed to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb which called for jihad in Morocco.

He stands accused of defending and inciting terrorism, with the authorities saying he was giving the jihadists a platform, accusations the journalist has described as "surreal."

Known for his criticism of the Moroccan establishment, and the monarchy in particular, Anouzla was released on bail in October after an outcry at home and abroad over the case, which has become a test of the authorities' pledge to increase press freedom.

Both the French and Arabic versions of his popular website were shut down.

Speaking to journalists in Rabat on Wednesday, Anouzla confirmed that he had written to the public prosecutor in January asking for Lakome to be unblocked.

"If I don't receive a response in the coming days, I will launch a new website, called Lakome2.com," he said.

His comments come just a day after the judge investigating his case set the next hearing for May 20, at the court in Rabat's twin city of Sale, where he spent more than one month in prison.

Under Morocco's tough anti-terrorism law, which was adopted in 2003 after a string of suicide attacks in Casablanca, the journalist risks up to 20 years behind bars, according to Amnesty International.

Amnesty, Human Rights Watch and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) have called him a prisoner of conscience and campaigned for his release.

Anouzla is an experienced journalist who broke the story of a convicted Spanish pedophile freed last August by mistake under a royal pardon that was hastily revoked after it sparked angry protests across the country.

RSF ranked Morocco 136 out of 180 countries in its 2014 world press freedom index, and said his case was "indicative of a disturbing readiness on the part of the authorities to view journalistic work as inciting terrorism."