Moroccan justice decided on Monday to postpone the trial for “illegal abortion” of a Moroccan journalist until September 16, before rejecting his request for freedom.
Hajar Raissouni, 28, a reporter for the Arabic-language daily Akhbar Al-Yaoum, faces up to two years in prison under the Moroccan penal code, which punishes abortion when the mother’s life is not in danger. She is also prosecuted for “debauchery” (sex outside marriage).
The defense team, grouping about twenty lawyers, argued at length for his release before a full house, highlighting in particular “the contradictions between the constitutional provisions relating to freedoms and the judiciary”.
The Rabat court deliberated for several hours before rejecting their claim.
Arrested and tried at the same time she, her fiancé, the attending physician, a nurse and a medical secretary will also remain in prison until the next hearing, according to defense lawyers.
The case has aroused in recent days an indignant debate in the media and on social networks, with questions about individual freedoms in Morocco, the right of women to dispose of their bodies, respect for privacy or on the independence of the press, all of which amount to accusing the authorities of harassment.
Denouncing a “political affair”, the young woman, in detention since her arrest on August 31 in front of a medical office in Rabat, claims to have been treated for internal bleeding.
“We arrested her, we put her in detention and after we looked for evidence of a possible abortion, the case is empty,” according to her lawyer Saad Sahli.
The public prosecutor’s office in Rabat assures that the arrest “has nothing to do with his profession of journalist” but intervened in the context of a more comprehensive judicial investigation aimed at the medical office.
Since his arrest, feminists and human rights defenders have called for his release in various messages of support.
On Monday, a few hundred people gathered before the court before the opening of the hearing to support the journalist in the name of respect for individual freedoms.
“Freedom for Hajar”, “Our society is in danger”, chanted the demonstrators before the opening of the trial.
“My body is my freedom”, “No to the criminalization of sexual relations between consenting adults”, “The legal texts silence all opposition”, proclaimed the placards.
In Morocco, arrests in abortion cases generally concern practitioners and very rarely patients, according to a statement by Human Rights Watch ( HRW ), citing Chafik Chraibi, president of the Moroccan Association Against Abortions illegal immigrants (Amlac).
“The selective way of applying the laws in our country (…) shows the refusal of the Moroccan State to establish a true rule of law,” said businessman Karim Tazi, present at the event .
“We are here to denounce the discriminatory laws” and “support Hajar Raissouni,” said Samira Muheya, vice president of the Federation of Women’s Rights Leagues ( FLDF ). “The decision to abort is a personal decision,” she said.
Arrested this week on the subject, the government spokesman recalled that the revision of the penal code including provisions on abortion was on the agenda of parliamentary debates.
The National Council for Human Rights ( CNDH ), which had remained silent until then, said Monday “to follow with interest the debate on individual freedoms and the issue of voluntary termination of pregnancy” and provide for ” to present recommendations for the amendment of the Penal Code “in the coming days.
In 2018, Moroccan justice sued 14,503 people for “debauchery”, 3,048 for “adultery”, 170 for “homosexuality” and 73 for “abortion”, according to official figures. Between 600 and 800 clandestine abortions are practiced daily in Morocco, according to estimates of associations.
Axadle International Monitoring – World