Imprisoned Moroccon Journalists Enter Hunger Strike

Published: 16 April 2021

Radi Raissouni Morocco

Journalists Suleiman Raissouni and Omar Radi started hunger strike in a Moroccan prison. (Photo: Reporters Without Borders)

By Lara Dihmis

Two Moroccan journalists kept in unlawful pre-trial detention since 2019 and 2020 have entered a hunger strike after their trials have been postponed and their provisional release requests rejected for at least the tenth time.

Omar Radi and Suleiman Raissouni have been accused of sexual assault - charges increasingly brought by the Morocco against its critics - especially journalists and activists.

Radi, known for tackling corruption issues and criticizing Morocco’s human rights record, was first arrested in December 2019 for criticizing on Twitter the unfair trial and imprisonment of a group of activists who participated in a peaceful protest in 2017.

Following international protests, Radi was briefly released, but then detained again in July 2020 on charges of rape and espionage. Since then, human rights observers, NGOs and activists have demanded a fair trial and his release.

“There is no justification for the pre-trial detention of Omar Radi for these past nine months and we call for him to be released,” Amnesty International's Deputy Regional Director for the MENA region, Amna Guellali, said in a statement last week.

“Omar Radi has for years faced judicial harassment by the authorities because of his brave journalism,” she added.

In 2020, Amnesty found that Moroccan authorities had allegedly used spyware, developed by an Israeli company to fight crime and terrorism, to hack into Radi’s phone.

Editor-in-chief Suleiman Raissouni, the second journalist now on hunger strike, has been detained since June 2020. He is also being held on sexual assault charges. He is one of at least five Moroccon journalists associated with “the opposition” who have in recent years been held on such charges.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) called on the Moroccan authorities to “stop subjecting journalists to arbitrary and abusive prosecutions that drive them to put their lives in danger.”

“The Moroccan authorities must stop resorting to these arbitrary and iniquitous prosecutions that drive journalists to choose the worst methods to defend their rights,” head of RSF’s North Africa desk, Souhaieb Khayati, added, referring to the hunger strike.

Morocco ranks 133rd out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.