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. 

 


Banks in Lebanon reopen amid security increase

Updated 19 November 2019

Banks in Lebanon reopen amid security increase

  • Two security guards will be placed in front of each bank, and security patrols will be conducted in cities

BEIRUT: Banks in Lebanon will reopen on Tuesday after the Association of Banks in Lebanon approved measures to ease the anger of depositors and customers. 

More than 3,000 members of Beirut’s police, the regional gendarmerie, the judicial police, and the information division of the Internal Security Forces will provide protection to banks and their employees, who carried out an open strike for a week.

They did so due to customers’ anger over measures applied by banks on withdrawals and transfers amid Lebanon’s severe political and economic crisis, which sparked mass protests that have been ongoing for 33 days.

Two security guards will be placed in front of each bank, and security patrols will be conducted in cities.

The Association of Banks in Lebanon decided on Sunday to “stop restrictions on new funds transferred from abroad, provided that remittances abroad only cover urgent personal expenses.”

It also decided to lift restrictions on the circulation of checks, transfers, and the use of credit cards in Lebanon. 

As for the use of credit cards abroad, ceilings are determined by agreements between banks and customers.

The association has determined a maximum cash withdrawal rate of $1,000 per week for holders of current accounts in dollars, while checks issued in foreign currencies will be transferred into their account.

It has also urged customers to “use their credit cards, especially in Lebanese pounds, to buy their needs.”

Meanwhile, protesters are preparing to block roads leading to Parliament in the heart of Beirut on Tuesday, to prevent a legislative session from taking place. The session had already been postponed for a week.

In an attempt to placate protesters, the presidential palace’s media office said the president has ordered investigations into “financial crimes, waste, forgery, money laundering and suspicious transactions,” as well as “negligence at work, promotion of counterfeit medicines and suspicious reconciliation contracts.”