Washington- There are a few gaping holes in the arguments presented by Morocco for detaining Lakome journalist Ali Anouzla for “incitement of terrorism” in the Maghreb—all of them leading us to question, did Anouzla break the law and warrant punishment, or are Moroccan authorities reverting back to their days of repressive press policy?
In laying out the sequence of events since Anouzla’s arrest on September 17, we can deconstruct Morocco’s rationale.
On September 17th, Ali Anouzla was arrested in his home, hours after publishing a link to a Spanish news site that had reported on a video of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb [AQIM] defaming the Moroccan king and encouraging young Muslims to join their jihadist movement.
The Rabat prosecutor’s office issued a statement saying that because the video “includes an unequivocal and direct incitement to commit terrorist acts in the Kingdom of Morocco, the prosecutor general has given instructions to the criminal investigation police to arrest the head of the online newspaper for investigation.”
The video, entitled “Morocco, Kingdom of Corruption and Despotism.” Styled as a “documentary”, the video is a 41-minute tirade that mocks the domestic and foreign policy of the country and its efforts to fight terrorism. It also shows an image of the Moroccan monarch engulfed in flames. The video includes footage of al-Qaeda militants training in the forests and mountains of Algeria under the personal supervision of AQIM leader Abdelmalek Droukdel. The tape ends with a call by Droukdel for young people to join the ranks of jihadists.
Shortly following Anouzla’s arrest, the international human rights community lashed out at Morocco calling for his immediate release on the basis of a violation of freedom of the press, and also under the claim that Anouzla did not directly incite violence by indirectly providing information to the location of the AQIM video.
This incident, however, is not Anouzla’s first run-in with Moroccan authorities.
Anouzla has previously been reprimanded by the Moroccan government for criticizing the monarch, questioning his authority, the government spending, exposing the controversy behind the pardoning of the Spanish pedophile earlier in the summer, and his general openness about Moroccan royal affairs.
“Ali Anouzla is one of the most respected independent journalists in Morocco,” said Eric Glodstein, deputy director of Human Rights Watch in North Africa. “His willingness to break taboos and criticise the authorities, including the (Royal) palace, has led to a series of run-ins with the authorities, including a conviction and prison sentence.”
Anouzla’s colleagues have also defended Anouzla’s innocence, stating that exposing the AQIM video was in the best interest of the Moroccan people.
“Moroccans have the right to know that a terrorist organization is threatening their rulers,”said Jamai, who runs the French version of Lakome, in a phone interview with Al Jazeera. “The accusation that Ali is promoting terrorism is absurd. Like other media outlets in the world in similar cases, we simply reported the story.”
Morocco, however, has a different take on the situation. On Tuesday, September 24th, Ali Anouzla was officially charged under law number 03-03 of the Moroccan penal code, which states:
- Article 218-1: Acts of terrorism are constituted when committed intentionally in connection with an individual or collective undertaking the purpose of causing serious public order by intimidation , terror or violence.
- Article 218-2 – The perpetrator shall be punished with imprisonment from 2 to 6 years and a fine of 10 000 to 200,000 dirhams , for glorifying acts constituting offenses of terrorism, by speeches, shouting or threats in places where public meetings or by written or printed sold, distributed or offered for sale or displayed in places of public assembly , or by posters displayed in public view by the various audio visual and electronic media.
Should Morocco find Anouzla guilty, he will face up to six years in prison, but, in the eyes of the international human rights community, he will have served the time as a hero of journalism for pushing the limits of Morocco’s repressive authority over civil liberties.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy
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