Responding to the conviction of journalist and government critic Omar Radi to six years in prison in a trial marred by blatant breaches of due process in relation to charges of espionage and rape, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Amna Guellali said:
“Before his arrest Omar Radi was harassed by the authorities because of his brave journalistic work criticizing human rights violations and exposing corruption. Ever since his trial began, it has been marred by flaws. He has been deprived of the right to prepare a proper defence, he and his legal team were denied the right to access some of the evidence against him and all requests to summon defence witnesses in the cases against him were denied. He has also been held in solitary confinement for nearly a year.
“Condemning someone to six years in prison after such flawed proceedings is not justice. Morocco’s authorities must urgently grant him a fair retrial in line with international standards.”
Omar Radi is one of the founders of Le Desk, an independent Moroccan news website that publishes content critical of the authorities. His journalism has focused on politics and investigating corruption by the authorities.
On 29 July, the authorities arrested him and charged him with “harming the internal and external security of Morocco” based on an accusation that he had received funds from sources “linked to foreign intelligence agencies”. Amnesty International considers these to be trumped up charges as they are related to research grants in the context of a journalism fellowship and freelance consultancies, both protected by his right to freedom of expression.
Omar Radi was also charged with “rape” and “indecent assault against a female” after a former colleague at Le Desk alleged he assaulted her on 12 July 2020. He has denied the accusation. It is vital for all sexual assault allegations to be properly investigated and for perpetrators of such assaults to be brought to justice. Yet regardless of how serious the charges against him are, the authorities must ensure he is treated fairly and is granted a fair trial.
In June 2020, an Amnesty International report revealed that Omar Radi was targeted by the Moroccan authorities using spyware produced by NSO Group, an Israeli company. Following its publication, the Moroccan authorities launched a smear campaign against Amnesty International, in an attempt to discredit the organization’s findings and distract from the unlawful surveillance in Morocco of human rights defenders and journalists. The indictment in both the espionage and rape cases against Omar Radi, dated 18 March 2021, confirms that the authorities had put the journalist under surveillance since 29 December 2017.