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Newspaper editor's trial for disrespecting king adjourned indefinitely

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders regrets that newspaper editor Ahmed Reda Benchemsi's year-old trial on a charge of "disrespect for the king" was adjourned indefinitely on 3 September 2008 by a Casablanca court. The presiding judge said at the end of the hearing that "the court could summon Mr. Benchemsi again if all of the prosecution case requirements are met."

"This is not a satisfactory decision," Reporters Without Borders said. "The Moroccan courts will not help the cause of press freedom by burying their heads in the sand. We are still waiting for the government led by Prime Minister Abbas El Fassi to demonstrate a commitment to press freedom in the form of legislation. Meanwhile, Benchemsi continues to be exposed to the possibility of a prison sentence because of what he wrote in an editorial."

The editor of two weeklies, "Nichane" and "Tel Quel", Benchemsi told Reporters Without Borders that the sine die adjournment showed that "the court was clearly trying to close the case without having to reach a verdict." He added: "I am supposed to see this decision as a conciliatory gesture. But the judge can call me back to court whenever he wants. If he does, the trial will resume and my lawyers will defend my innocence."

Benchemsi was summoned for questioning by the Casablanca judicial police at the start of August 2007 because of an editorial criticising a speech by King Mohammed about legislative elections taking place the following month. The latest issues of his two newspapers were destroyed at the printing press on the orders of the interior minister. His trial on a charge of disrespect for the king under article 41 of the press law opened on 24 August 2007.

Updates the Benchemsi case:

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