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FM: Morocco journalist ‘terror’ case in judge’s hands

Ali Anouzla stands accused of defending and inciting terrorism

Published: Updated:

The controversial case of a Moroccan journalist accused of aiding “terrorism”, whose popular news website has been blocked, is in the hands of the judiciary, the foreign minister said Friday.

Ali Anouzla was arrested last September 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, charges flatly denied by the journalist.

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

Criticism

Known for his criticism of Morocco's establishment, and the monarchy in particular, Anouzla was released on bail in October after an outcry at home and abroad, with the US State Department saying it was concerned by the decision to charge him.

At a joint news conference with visiting US Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday, Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar said the case was in the hands of the investigating judge, and called for the work of the judiciary to be “respected.”

“There's a law in Morocco that is very clear; defending terrorism is considered an act of provocation that affects society, and that is the basis of this case,” he added in response to a question.

The next hearing in the case, which has become a test of the authorities' pledge to increase press freedom, has been set for May 20.

“We have a lot of respect for Mr Anouzla, who is a great journalist, and naturally we would wish that these kind of questions should be overcome,” Mezouar said.

Big achievements

The minister insisted Morocco had “achieved a lot” in terms of democracy, civil freedom, and human rights.

But he added: “Like in all countries of the world, there are rules... (and) we are in a region where the issues related to terrorism are very sensitive.”

Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranked Morocco 136 out of 180 countries in its 2014 world press freedom index.

RSF said Anouzla's case was “indicative of a disturbing readiness on the part of the authorities to view journalistic work as inciting terrorism.”