, RABAT, May 20,- Amnesty International urged Morocco Tuesday to drop the charges against a journalist accused of aiding “terrorism”, as the latest hearing in a controversial case was adjourned for a fifth time.
“The Moroccan authorities must end their charade of a trial against Ali Anouzla and drop all terrorism charges against him,” the rights group’s regional director Philip Luther said.
“Using anti terrorism legislation as a pretext to punish journalists for their reporting is dealing a serious blow to freedom of expression in Morocco,” he added.
Anouzla was arrested last September after publishing an article on his website Lakome about an inflammatory video attributed to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb which called for jihad in Morocco and lashed out at King Mohammed VI.
He stands accused of defending and inciting terrorism and risks up to 20 years in prison, with the authorities saying he was giving the jihadists a platform, charges flatly denied by the experienced journalist.
He had been due in court on Tuesday, but the investigating judge postponed the hearing for the fifth time, Anouzla told AFP.
“The secretary of the judge called my lawyer to tell him that he is travelling, and when he returns he will set a new date to continue the investigation,” said the journalist, who was freed on bail in October.
The case has drawn widespread condemnation, not just from rights groups, and undermined the Moroccan authorities’ pledge to increase press freedom.
Both the French and Arabic versions of Anouzla’s popular website were shut down after his arrest.
The Washington Post, in an editorial published on Monday, called the charges against the journalist “absurd”, saying they were “intended only to intimidate him and to silence the media”.
“Mr Anouzla, who has a long record of journalism challenging the authorities, called the video ‘propaganda’ in his report — and rightly saw it as legitimate material for reporting on,” the US daily commented.
“By attempting to criminalise Mr Anouzla’s activity, the monarchy is demonstrating its own insecurity.”
Amnesty also called for the immediate and unconditional release of another Moroccan journalist, Moustapha Hasnaoui, jailed for three years under the country’s anti-terrorism law, who is currently on hunger strike.