Royal pardon for Moroccan journalist jailed for abortion

(Courtesy Morocco World News)
Updated 17 October 2019

Royal pardon for Moroccan journalist jailed for abortion

  • The case of Raissouni outraged rights activists
  • She was convicted last month of having extramarital sex and an abortion

RABAT: Morocco’s king has pardoned Hajar Raissouni, a journalist sentenced to a year in prison last month for extramarital sex and an abortion, along with her fiance, a doctor and two of his colleagues, the Justice Ministry said on Wednesday.

The case of Raissouni, who had denied the charges against her, outraged human rights activists who said she had been targeted for her work for a newspaper that has criticised the state, and because she is the niece of a prominent Islamist.

The Justice Ministry described King Mohammed VI’s intervention in the case as “an act of compassion and mercy”, adding that Raissouni and her fiance had wanted to establish a family legally.

The case drew widespread criticism from both Moroccan and foreign rights activists, who painted it as an attack on the free press and on civil rights. 

Abortion is illegal in Morocco. However, the Moroccan Association for Abortion Rights, an activist group, said 600 to 800 abortions take place illegally each day. In 2018, 41 cases were brought over illegal abortions, according to a report released by the prosecutor’s office.

Raissouni, 28, works for Akhbar Al-Youm, an independent newspaper that has been critical of the Moroccan state, and is the niece of a Muslim theologian who is a former leader of a politically influential Islamist group.

Raissouni said police had taken her for forcible medical checks against her will and had asked her about her work at the newspaper and about her uncles. Her lawyers and rights activists said the checks without her consent amounted to torture.

In court, the prosecutor dismissed any suggestion of procedural irregularities, and said that the circumstances of Raissouni’s arrest had been legal and the case had nothing to do with her work as a journalist.

Raissouni and her fiance had said in court that they had been married in a religious ceremony but had not yet arranged a legal marriage contract.

Police had said they detained her as she was leaving a clinic they were investigating for abortions.

She and the doctor said she was there to receive treatment for a blood clot and denied that she had had an abortion. 


UN: Top Iraqi Shiite cleric backs reforms to resolve unrest

Updated 3 min 25 sec ago

UN: Top Iraqi Shiite cleric backs reforms to resolve unrest

  • At least 12 protesters were wounded in fresh confrontations with security forces in and around Khilani Square
  • Sistani has said security forces had a responsibility to show restraint with peaceful protesters

BAGHDAD: The United Nations top envoy to Iraq, seeking support for a roadmap to resolve massive anti-government protests, said Monday that the country’s most powerful Shiite religious leader backs serious reforms but is concerned politicians will not carry them out.
At least 12 protesters were also wounded in fresh confrontations with security forces in and around Khilani Square, in Baghdad. Most were hit directly with tear gas canisters, according to security and hospital officials who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations. Four others were killed over night in clashes in a southern city.


This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, the UN Special Representative to Iraq, met with Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani in the Shiite holy city of Najaf to discuss the series of reforms put forward by the UN a day earlier.
“The marjaiyah made it clear that it supports the conduct of serious reforms in a reasonable period of time,” she said, using the Arabic name for Al-Sistani’s authority. “Within that context, it welcomes the proposals of the United Nations, including the proposal for one consolidated electoral framework.”
“The marjaiyah also expresses its concerns that the political forces are not serious enough to carry out these reforms,” she added.
Hennis-Plasschaert said Sistani, who did not issue a separate statement, insisted there should be “zero” use of violence against peaceful protesters and that perpetrators “should be held to account without delay.”
In recent sermons, Sistani has said security forces had a responsibility to show restraint with peaceful protesters.
On Sunday, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq laid out a series of short- and long-term measures aimed at tackling protester demands, including electoral reform and anti-corruption initiatives.
More immediate measures included the release of peaceful demonstrators detained since early October, an investigation into cases of abduction and punishing those found guilty of using excessive force against protesters.


Hennis-Plasschaert said the UN would monitor the government’s progress to ensure measures were being “done promptly, swiftly and decisively because this country needs to move forward.”
Qais Al-Khazali, a powerful Iran-backed militia leader, said US support for early elections, “revealed the extent of US intervention in Iraq affairs,” in a statement posted on social media.
The White House issued a statement Sunday expressing backing for previous calls by Iraqi President Barham Saleh to reform the electoral system and hold early elections.
Khazali, head of the Asaib Al-Haq group, said the statement showed the idea of early elections was “primarily a US project intended to be revived even though the religious authority previously rejected it.”
Saleh said in late October that early elections would be held following the resignation of Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi, who in turn said his stepping down was contingent on political parties finding a suitable alternative for the premiership.
The violence in Baghdad came after renewed clashes between demonstrators and security forces overnight in the southern city of Nasiriyah, killing four protesters and some 130 wounded, a rights group said.
The casualties in Nasiriyah occurred during confrontations outside the education directorate as security forces tear-gassed protesters trying to block employees from reaching the building in the city center.
The semi-official Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights, which reported the toll, called the violence “regrettable” and added that some of the wounded are in serious conditions.
The group also said at least 34 demonstrators were arbitrarily arrested from neighborhoods in Nasiriyah.
At least 320 protesters have been killed by security forces since the protests and unrest over living conditions began last month.
The demonstrators complain of widespread corruption, lack of job opportunities and poor basic services, including regular power cuts, despite Iraq’s vast oil reserves.