Morocco rapist of teen who took own life gets 20 years in jail

NGOs say 80 per cent of sexual attacks affect children, aged mostly between five and 14

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A Moroccan court on Wednesday handed down a 20-year jail term to an assailant in the gang rape of a teenage girl who later burnt herself alive, a rights group said.

Omar Arbib of the Moroccan Association of Human Rights told AFP that the accused on trial in the city of Marrakesh was found guilty of raping a minor and of group violence.

The verdict on six other defendants was to be announced on August 31.

At the end of last year, a group of young men abducted Khadija Souidi, who was then 16, from her hometown in Ben Guerir, north of Marrakesh, “and then took turns to rape her,” Arbib said last week.

The girl’s family lodged a complaint and police arrested several suspects, although the prosecutor granted them a provisional release.

Arbib said that after being freed they threatened the girl, saying they would “publish pictures of the rape which they had taken with their mobile phones unless she drops the complaint against them”.

“This is the reason why... she set herself on fire” in a street of Ben Guerir at the end of July, Arbib said.

Souidi suffered third degree burns and died the next day in hospital, he said, adding that the autopsy showed that she was pregnant.

Her death prompted the prosecutor to order the arrests.

Sexual harassment is commonplace in Morocco, despite the adoption of a new constitution in 2011 that enshrines gender equality and urges the state to promote it.

Moroccan NGOs say 80 per cent of sexual attacks affect children, aged mostly between five and 14, and that in a high percentage of cases the assailants are family members.

In January 2014, Morocco scrapped a controversial law that allowed rapists of children to escape punishment if they marry their victims.

The article made international headlines in March 2012 when Amina Filali, 16, killed herself after being forced to marry the man who had raped her and who remained free.

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