Moroccan journalist and human rights activist Omar Radi was sentenced on appeal to six years in prison for espionage and rape.
Radi, a 35-year-old freelance journalist known as a vocal critic of the authorities, insisted on his innocence throughout his two-year trial.
“My only fault is that I demanded independent justice,” Radi said ahead of the judge’s verdict on Thursday, to cheers from supporters in the courtroom.
Accused of endangering state security with “foreign funding” and rape, Radi was initially convicted last July.
His trial began in 2020 just days after human rights group Amnesty International said Moroccan authorities planted Pegasus spyware on his cellphone – a claim Morocco has denied.
Radi’s arrest and detention has been protested by rights activists, intellectuals and politicians both at home and abroad.
Earlier this week, the prosecution had requested “the maximum sentence” against him. Rape is punishable by up to ten years in prison.
After the original sentence was upheld, defense attorney Miloud Kandil called it a “very harsh judgment”.
“We presented all the elements proving the innocence of Omar Radi in court but unfortunately nothing was taken into account,” he told AFP.
In the same case, fellow journalist Imad Stitou was sentenced to one year in prison.
Stitou, initially presented as the only witness for the prosecution, was present with Radi when he allegedly raped a woman.
Stitou left Morocco for Tunisia and was tried in absentia.
Radi’s is the latest in a string of harsh sentences handed down to journalists in the North African kingdom and neighboring Algeria.
Authorities in both countries have detained and tried journalists on charges ranging from harming national interests to sexual assault.
Morocco is currently ranked 136th out of 180 countries in RSF’s World Press Freedom Index.