A rape case tangled in the legal framework of homosexuality crimes and fiercely debated press freedoms has left journalist Soulaimane Raissouni remanded, awaiting a September court hearing.
Rabat – A Moroccan has court ordered that Soulaimane Raissouni, the chief editor of independent daily newspaper Akhbar Al-Yaoum, remain behind bars over charges of “indecent assault” against another man.
After a judge remanded the journalist in his first hearing, Raissouni’s lawyer said he is expected to appear in court again on September 9 in Casablanca.
According to his lawyer, Raissouni pleaded not guilty to the “indecent assault with violence and forcible confinement” charges brought against him.
Moroccan police arrested Soulaimane Raissouni on May 22, one day after the plaintiff, using the pseudonym Adam Muhammed, shared his account with police. Muhammed stated that Raissouni had sexually assaulted him in 2018 following an offer from Raissouni’s wife to collaborate on a film related to the LGBTQ community.
Same-sex relations are illegal in Morocco. Muhammed said his position as a gay man prolonged his decision to file a report against Raissouni.
The tangled crimes, taboos, politically sensitive work of journalists, and unanswered questions regarding the case have stirred international debate. Many argue that the journalist was targeted for his work, while others press for justice for the alleged victim.
Those in support of the journalists’ release point to related cases that speak to a crackdown on journalists’ freedom of speech.
Last year, Hajar Raissouni, Soulaimane Raissouni’s niece — also an Akhbar Al-Yaoum journalist — was sentenced to one year in jail for an “illegal abortion” and sexual relations outside of marriage.
Hajar and her fiance denied the allegations and King Mohammed VI granted the journalist a royal pardon one month later.
Similarly, in 2019, Toufik Bouachrine, a publisher for Akhbar Al-Yaoum, was sentenced to a 15-year jail term on charges of rape, human trafficking, and sexual assault. Bouachrine denied the charges and classified them as politically “motivated and fabricated.”
Meanwhile, Muhammed writes on Facebook, “The accused cannot be above the law just because he’s a journalist.”
LGBTQ rights organizations such as Tunisian NGO Mawjoudin expressed support for the victim. Rather than framing the accusations as a political move, the NGO wants his case to be considered just as any other sexual assault case would.
“This is not a political issue that affects the freedom of the press as much as it is the case of a victim who was sexually assaulted,” the NGO argued.