Both Narjis Rerhaye, a freelance journalist and author of the article, and Naim Kamal, director of Moroccan news outlet Quid.ma which published the article, are Moroccan nationals residing in Morocco.
“The facts with which we are charged are based on a supposed press offense against Mr Mustapha Adib,” Kamal wrote in an article on August 29. Mustapha Adib is a former Moroccan army captain now residing in France.
Both journalists received “summons for first appearance” from the Court of Major Jurisdiction of Paris, to appear on October 8.
In the letter, Aida Traore, vice-president in charge of the investigation, informed the journalists that she “considers [their] indictment” for having published an article entitled “L’honneur perdu d’un ex-capitaine qui confond justice traditionnelle et caniveau’’ (The Lost Honor of an Ex-Captain Who Confuses Traditional Justice and the Gutter).
The article, wrote Traore, contained an “outrageous expression, a term of contempt or an invective towards Mr Mustapha Adib.” The phrase she objected to, in French, translates to: “What Mustapha Adib did tends to barbarity.”
The articles of the French law by which the two journalists have been charged include fines and imprisonment, according to Kamal.
The two journalists expressed their “deep astonishment” that the French judicial system followed up on what they called “an unfounded complaint” to judge them “for a fallacious fact.” They asserted the issue “does not concern [France] in any way.”
A grievance from 2014
The incident dates back to June 20, 2014, when Quid.ma published an article stating that former army captain Adib “had tried to rush into” a hospital room in France’s Val-de-Grace Hospital, belonging to General Abdelaziz Bennani, former inspector general of Morocco’s Royal Armed Forces (FAR). Bennani was convalescing, and Adib left Bennani rotten flowers and an insulting letter.
“Criminal Abdelaziz Bennani murdered thousands of innocent people and threw millions of orphans into the streets,” Quid.ma quoted Adib’s letter.
“This is not activism. This is not militancy. It is not about the defense of human rights. What Mustapha Adib did tends to barbarity,” Quid.ma described Adib’s action.
Adib, a captain in FAR, left the Moroccan army and settled in Paris after he was released from a Moroccan prison. In 1998, Adib had written a letter to King Mohammed VI (then crown prince), claiming there was corruption in the Moroccan military.
According to Jeune Afrique, King Mohammed VI conducted an investigation which resulted in the arrest of Adib. He was held for 30 months and freed in May 2002.
Two and a half years after Quid.ma published the article in June 2014, Kamal and Rerhaye received an email summoning them to the French police for what appeared to be an investigation.
To avoid media agitation, “we preferred to act in strict observance of the procedure,” Kamal noted.
“At my request I was received by Mustapha Ramid, then minister of justice, who assured me of his support. I had for him a question of sovereignty, a precise question: Did the French judiciary have the right to summon Moroccan citizens residing in Morocco, without going through any Moroccan institution?” wrote Kamal.
Ramid’s answer was “no,” he added.
Rerhaye hired a Parisian law firm to follow the case.
In the early summer of 2017, Morocco’s National Brigade of the Judicial Police (BNPJ) summoned both journalists at France’s request.
Kamal and Rerhaye answered the Moroccan police’s questions, “assuming [responsibility] before the BNPJ for the entire content of the article,” Kamal wrote.
Quid.ma questions the journalists’ summons
Following summons, Quid.ma raised some substantive questions: “Can Moroccan citizens whose country of residence is Morocco be justiciable in France? Is the French judiciary entitled to summon foreign nationals not under its jurisdiction, in this case Moroccan, without other forms of procedure?”
Again the journalists asked, “Would the Moroccan judiciary agree to divest itself of its powers? We dare to believe that the answer is no.”
Conversely, the Moroccan news outlet wondered if “one could imagine a French publisher and a French journalist living in France, summoned by a Moroccan magistrate who would put them under investigation for ‘defamation’?”