Moroccan teens face reprimand in ‘kissing’ trial’

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The prosecutor in the trial of three Moroccan teenagers accused of public indecency for posting online pictures of two of them kissing asked on Friday for a reprimand rather than jail terms.

The teens risk possible prison sentences of five years under the kingdom’s penal code, for public indecency and indecent assault on a minor.

But the prosecutor asked in court that the judge “reprimand” the accused, in what defence lawyer Monaim Fettahi said was a “positive sign”.

The judge adjourned the case until December 6 when he is expected to deliver a verdict.

The accused -- a boy and a girl aged 15 and 14, as well as a 15-year-old male friend who took the photos -- were at school during Friday’s hearing in the northern town of Nador, and were represented by their parents, their lawyer told AFP by phone.

The case has drawn strong criticism from international rights groups and sparked a storm of online protests in Morocco.

Youth activists staged a symbolic “kiss-in” outside parliament last month to protest the charges brought against the defendants.

Friday’s hearing comes as King Mohamed VI is due to meet US President Barack Obama at the White House, during a working visit to Washington.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have both has urged Obama to press the Moroccan monarch on pushing ahead with the democratic reform process, including by providing stronger legal protections for individual rights.

“Despite official promises to reform the penal code, the Moroccan authorities have failed to take action over the last couple of years to ... guarantee freedom of expression,” Amnesty’s regional director Philip Luther said in a statement on Thursday.

Morocco has a reputation for being relatively liberal and tolerant, particularly when compared with other Muslim countries.

But despite an increasingly secular-minded youth population, it remains a deeply religious society and human rights campaigners say the government has struggled to embrace a modern world characterised by the Internet and global communication.