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Activist sentenced for "insulting" the king

(ANHRI/IFEX) - Cairo, 14 February 2012 - ANHRI condemns the sentence issued by a Moroccan court on 13 February 2012 against the activist Abdul-Samad al-Haidour, 25, on charges of "insulting" the King of Morocco Mohamed VI.

The Appeal Court of Taza city "Northern East" sentenced Abdul-Samad to three years in prison and a 15,000 Moroccan dirhams (approx. US$1,770) fine because of his involvement in a video clip being disseminated on YouTube. The video features two activists from the 20 February movement, Abdul-Samad and Essam Morsi, 18, expressing their views on the current situation of the country and the way the King administers it. Abdul-Samad was filmed saying that the rulers in Morocco insist on maintaining Morocco in the position of a consuming society, despite the massive economic and social potential it has. He also said that the King rejects democratic reforms. These comments were deemed by the court as "insulting to the sanctities of the state", and Abdul-Samad was convicted of "violating the sanctity" of King Mohamed VI.

The court issued its unjust sentence without the presence of a defense team for Abdul-Samad, in violation of the rules of a fair trial. The court only asked him whether he was the same person who appeared in the video clip, a fact that he did not deny.

On 14 February, the Court of First Instance in Taza convicted 18 activists from the 20 February movement on charges of "disobedience", "insulting public officials while performing their duties", "use of violence and implication in acts of sabotage in circumstances that would threaten the safety of capitals and individuals", all in the context of protests that broke out at the beginning of February in the city of Taza. Seven activists received a sentence of five months in prison with stay of execution and a 3,000 dirhams (approx. US$354) fine. Six other activists received an in force sentence of 10 months in prison and a 1,000 dirhams (approx. US$118) fine each.

"The imprisonment of a young man because of expressing his view in a peaceful manner is flawed and unacceptable. It should not be happening at a time when the Moroccan society is witnessing developments and political reforms that supposedly support freedoms and do not violate them," said ANHRI.

ANHRI calls on the Moroccan authorities to drop all charges against Abdul-Samad, the other 20 activists from the 20 February movement and all prisoners of conscience, and to respect freedom of opinion and expression so that the country can continue to travel on a reformist path.

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