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BLOGGER WHO CRITICISED KING FREED

On 18 September, a Moroccan appeals court overturned a two-year jail sentence given to a local blogger for criticising the King and the royal family, report the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

On 8 September, Mohammed Erraji was jailed and fined 5,000 dirhams (US$620) for failing to respect the King. The trial reportedly lasted 10 minutes. He was later released on bail pending the appeals court ruling.

Erraji had accused Morocco's monarchy of encouraging a culture of dependency in an article for online newspaper Hespress.com. He argued that the King's custom of granting favours, such as taxi licences to a lucky few, encouraged people to rely on handouts. Read an English translation of the article on the Global Voices Online website: http://tinyurl.com/5lo2ol

The presiding judge at the appeals court cited flaws in prosecuting the case of the 29-year-old blogger, including the failure to summon him to attend trial 15 days before he actually appeared in court and his unlawful detention ahead of the trial.

"I am very happy with today's court ruling, which came after a summary and unfair ruling," Erraji told CPJ on the day of his release. "But at the same time, my happiness is mixed with feelings of sadness, because it never occurred to me that one day I would be arbitrarily accused of showing disrespect toward the King, which is a grave accusation."

A source close to Erraji said, "I cannot overstate the importance of the support by organisations like IFEX and International PEN. I would like to thank them for unconditionally standing by their principles, and would like to state that their moral authority is an inspiration to all of us."

Visit these links:
- ANHRI: http://www.anhri.net/en/reports/2008/pr0920-2.shtml
- CPJ: http://tinyurl.com/3pnyxl
- RSF: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=28603
- Reuters: http://tinyurl.com/46hpf6
- "IFEX Communiqué" on Erraji's arrest and sentence: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/96917/
(24 September 2008)

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