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Morocco imprisons former human rights minister after ‘adultery video’ appeal

Appeals court upholds sentencing of Mohammed Ziane, an outspoken critic of Morocco's security apparatus
Moroccan lawyer Mohamed Ziane arrives at a courthouse on 5 April 2018 in Casablanca, Morocco (AFP)
Moroccan lawyer Mohammed Ziane arrives at a courthouse on 5 April 2018 in Casablanca, Morocco (AFP)

A Moroccan former human rights minister was arrested and imprisoned on Monday after an appeals court upheld an initial three-year sentence, the prosecutor’s office in Rabat said. 

Mohammed Ziane, a 79-year-old lawyer and founder of the Moroccan Liberal Party, last year accused security services of faking a video which appeared to show him in a compromising situation with a married woman in a hotel room. 

Ziane accused the head of Morocco’s security forces, Abdellatif Hammouchi, of faking the footage. The interior ministry subsequently filed a complaint in January 2021 accusing him of spreading “false accusations”. 

In February, he was sentenced to three years in prison and fined 5,000 dirhams ($464) but was later released. 

He was found guilty on Monday of various charges including insulting the judiciary, using social media to instigate the violation of Covid-19 measures, adultery, sexual harassment, contempt of institutions and setting a bad example for children, the prosecutor’s office said. 

Ziane, a former head of the Bar Association, is an outspoken critic of Morocco’s government and security apparatus who has defended several journalists in court. 

He was the country’s human rights minister between 1995 and 1996, and also served as the government’s lawyer during the 1990s.

A national body of activists defending prisoners of conscience said it was “extremely shocked at the arbitrary arrest” on Monday. 

"He was convicted for all possible and imaginable charges, it's an aberration the likes of which I've never seen," his son Ali Reda Ziane, a lawyer, told AFP.

Earlier this month, rights activist Rida Benotmane was sentenced to three years, charged with using social media to encourage protests against Covid-19 measures. 

In January, the Moroccan Association for Human Rights reported that the country had experienced “unprecedented regression” in freedom of expression, citing 170 cases of arrests and trials of journalists, bloggers and social activists last year. 

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