Moroccan government arrests critical journalist Omar Radi

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In Morocco, journalist Omar Radi was again arrested by the police on July 29. He would undermine state security, cooperate with foreign intelligence services and be guilty of rape. The real reason is his critical journalistic work on the Rif and on the violent expropriation of indigenous agricultural land by large agribusinesses.

It is not the first time that journalist Omar Radi has been arrested and prosecuted. His arrest is yet another warning to any journalist who publishes critical reports in Morocco. The Rif, the royal family and the neoliberal transformation of the country are still taboo subjects.

The rape allegation is primarily intended to influence public opinion in Morocco. Such accusations are regularly used to discredit critical persons. In addition, it is a means of pressure on the arrested person to ‘confess’ other accusations. Concrete evidence for the rape charge is not needed. It is enough to live together without being married or to have a consensual relationship with a person with whom one is not married to be accused. Although Morocco is in practice a liberal and modern society in the cities and urban areas, the legislation in force is still very puritan. It is regularly used to suppress critical voices.

Omar Radi is being held in a prison where no COVID-19 preventive measures are in place and several inmates are already infected. His lawyers have denied all charges but have still not been able to visit him. A first hearing is not scheduled until September 22.

Before his arrest on July 29, he had already been interrogated several times. He is said to have had contact with a diplomat from the Dutch embassy. In the past year, he has mainly conducted research and published on the strategy of large agri-companies to expropriate indigenous lands in common ownership. The people involved are forced to accept very modest compensation. Once ‘sold’, those fertile agricultural land suddenly turns out to be worth a lot.

Hetze in the mainstream media

In the months before, the Moroccan mainstream media published false and private information about himself. The major media in Morocco never criticize the government and the king. Private mobile phone calls with his father were printed in full. The government is now using a report by Amnesty International denouncing the curtailment of press freedom as evidence against him.

It states, among other things, that the police is hacking his mobile phone with Israeli spyware from the company NSO Group. The Pegasus app does not install on a device, but listens when the person is nearby. Pegasus then removes its own traces of the hacking itself. Nevertheless, Radi was able to demonstrate that all his cell phone conversations from September 13, 2019, January 27, February 11 and 13 this year were tapped, as stated in the Amnesty report.

No concrete evidence

In an interview (see video below this article) with Amy Goodman of the American alternative channel Democracy Now! on July 16 – Radi emphasizes that the police do not substantiate the charges during the interrogations with concrete evidence. “They only ask open questions, which remain vague”. “The police did show me evidence that they have been collecting my mobile phone traffic and text messages since 2011”.

“I don’t get any support from the mainstream colleagues, on the contrary. They have already condemned me. They call me the spy, the traitor. That is their role in all of this. Civil society, on the other hand, shows a lot of solidarity, as do Moroccans in the diaspora and international NGOs. ”

According to Radi, there are two things for the government. “The strategy is to ensure that this kind of journalism ceases to exist. This is revenge for what organizations like Amnesty International do with our information. The second objective is to discourage people from doing this and to discourage people from interacting with us. ”

EU is silent

“I have now decided not to cooperate with the police anymore because they only ask empty questions that do not respect the premise of innocence as long as there is no evidence. I have made this decision to no longer sign statements. ”

The EU has been passive about the repression in Morocco for years. The country is seen as an ally against migration from Africa and received € 148 million in 2019, which is why the European Commission is prepared to remain passive.

Two weeks after the conversation with Democracy Now! Omar Radi was arrested.

Note:

Also read Moroccan journalist Omar Radi ends up behind bars for a critical tweet. In April 2020, Omar Radi was given a suspended sentence of four months. This is a punishment that is not carried out at first, but can be added when the convicted ‘reoffends’ later. He was convicted for a tweet calling for support for leaders of the Rif in northern Morocco. His criticism of a sentence that sentenced them to severe prison terms of up to 20 years was considered “insulting a judge.” This case has yet to be heard on appeal.

Interview met Amy Goodman van Democracy Now!: “They Have No Evidence”: Moroccan Journalist Omar Radi Jailed, Surveilled After Criticizing Gov’t (19’24”, Engels, geen ondertitels):

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