In Summary
  • The case brought against Hajar Raissouni has triggered a furious debate in the media and online about civil liberties and freedom of the press in the north African country.
  • Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International have joined social media users in calling for Raissouni's release.
  • According to official figures, Moroccan courts last year tried more than 14,500 people for "debauchery", 3,048 for adultery, 170 for homosexuality and 73 for having abortions.

RABAT,

The trial of a Moroccan journalist accused of having a late-term abortion and sexual relations outside marriage was postponed on Monday after hundreds of people protested outside a court in the capital Rabat.

The case brought against Hajar Raissouni, who writes for the Arabic-language newspaper Akhbar Al-Yaoum, has triggered a furious debate in the media and online about civil liberties and freedom of the press in the north African country.

The 28-year-old, whose paper has a history of run-ins with the authorities, risks up to two years in prison if found guilty under the penal code which bars sex before marriage and abortion, except if the mother's life is in danger.

Her trial had been scheduled to open on Monday but after several hours deliberation the Rabat court ruled it would be postponed until September 16.

DETENTION

It also said the journalist would be detained until that date, against the repeated requests of her defence team.

The protesters outside the court shouted "Freedom for Hajar" and "Our society is in danger" while brandishing placards reading "My body, my freedom" and "No, to the criminalisation of sex between consenting adults".

Raissouni was arrested on August 31 as she left a clinic in Rabat, where her lawyer Saad Sahli said she had been undergoing treatment for internal bleeding.

But the prosecution insisted she had been seen by a medic last week and showed signs of pregnancy and of having undergone a "late voluntary abortion".

In a statement, it stressed her detention had "nothing to do with her profession as a journalist".

Raissouni, who is religiously but not yet legally married, had been due to wed her Sudanese partner this week. He was also arrested at the same time, along with the doctor, a nurse and a secretary.

The court ruled that they too would also be held until the next hearing.

LOBBIES' APPEAL

Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International have joined social media users in calling for Raissouni's release.

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