Thou Shall Not Blog

Another prisoner of opinion, Mohamed Erraji, has been jailed (then released) in Morocco, and again for a crime of lèse-majesté.

A Moroccan court in the coastal city of Agadir has sentenced in September 08, 2008, Mohamed Erraji, a journalist and blogger, to two years in prison and to a fine of around 600 US dollars. Erraji was convicted for “failing to respect the sacrality of the monarch” under article 41 of the Moroccan press code.

In an article he published on HesPress (ar), an irreverent Moroccan electronic magazine, Erraji criticized the king’s policy of rewarding people who adulate and praise him, much to the detriment of the common sense and public interest. Mohamed wrote (Original arabic version here – English translation from Global voices here by Amira Al Husseini) :

We need to admit that what has destroyed our country and made it plummet to this embarrassing level in all international rankings, is this economy of dispersing gratuities, which benefits the lucky sons and daughters of this country and overlooks the rest. Of course, we don’t need to use the larger than life terms used by politicians to understand what this means. It simply means that some people can take the rights of others unjustly! Transportation licenses and nobility titles which the King distributes on citizens who send him letters, written using the same phrases used by beggars lining sidewalks, fall under this category of gratuities. Countries which respect their citizens do not turn them into beggars under the feet of nobility.

Instead, they develop factories and workshops for them to work in and earn their living with dignity. Even if we assume that such gratuities are only dispersed to deserving citizens such as the special needs and poor, which is impossible at any rate, this isn’t anything that makes Moroccan citizens proud. The right to work, health care and education are granted by the Constitution. Therefore, the state should provide decent means of living for its citizens – other than humiliating them in this shameless manner.

During the 10-minute trial, the defendant wasn’t allowed and has not been able to have a defense attorney.

The hilarious side of the story is that the same iniquitous and corrupt court, later retracted and allowed for a provisional release on bail of Mr Erraji pending his appeal of the judgment against him.

Reporters Without Borders: “We are relieved by Erraji’s provisional release. The Moroccan judicial system must now hear his appeal in a proper manner. We hope the outcome will be fair. Erraji is not guilty of insulting the king. We hope the court will not uphold the prison sentence.”

Erraji’s lawyer who filed the appeal’s request later declared that his client’s “provisional release is the result of strong pressure. The decision came from a very high level.”

What else indeed could have helped for the release of Erraji other than a “high-level” intervention in a judicial system under direct orders from the executive… namely the monarch?

CPJ noted that “press freedom in Morocco has notably regressed in recent years. Independent journalists have been the targets of a series of politicized court cases, financial pressures, and harassment from authorities. The country’s restrictive press code criminalizes offending the king, “defaming” the monarchy, insulting Islam or state institutions, and offending Morocco’s “territorial integrity.””

In a fatalistic and pessimistic tone (not without some sense of derision,) Erraji closes his article writing:

[W]e should delay our dreams of a Morocco of equality and equal opportunities until the reign of Mohammad the Seventh, which will follow after that of Hassan the Third, who is the Crown Prince at present.

The idiotic and anachronistic trepidations of the Moroccan regime, are becoming disturbingly worrying. For how can any reasonable mind believe that such a medieval system of systematic censure ever work in face of a -definitely- awakening nation, thirsty of freedom, equality and genuine democracy?

This blog will then be on a symbolic strike, Monday, September the fifteenth in solidarity with Mohamed Erraji who might be momentarily free, but who hasn’t yet got off the hook. Moroccan bloggers and their friends around the place are joining efforts to name and shame the Moroccan government and put pressure on those who can put an end to this parody of justice. Please join this effort by publishing links to Erraji’s blog and to that of his supporting team.

Latest Update: Another example of the worrying state of affairs we’re talking about, this news I’ve come across while browsing through Moroccan online newspapers: A member of the royal family, one of the King’s ants husband, Hassan Alyaaqubi, has opened fire on a policemen who stopped Alyaaqubi for a misdemeanour traffic violation. The affair has apparently provoked a stir in the Moroccan street. What the hell is going on?

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