Moroccan Journalist on Trial Over 'Illegal Abortion', Says Police Forced Her to Take Painful Medical Tests

Published September 25th, 2019 - 06:59 GMT
Moroccan journalist facing trial for "illegal adoption", Hajar Raissouni (Twitter)
Moroccan journalist facing trial for "illegal adoption", Hajar Raissouni (Twitter)
Highlights
Raissouni, a 28-year-old journalist, her Sudanese boyfriend, a doctor, a nurse and a medical secretary remain in custody since being detained late last month.

A Moroccan journalist on trial over alleged sexual relations outside marriage and an "illegal abortion" told a court on Monday that police had forced her to undergo a painful medical examination in custody.

Hajar Raissouni's latest hearing came as hundreds of Moroccan women, in a show of solidarity, said in a joint statement they had broken their country's "unfair" laws punishing extramarital relations and abortions.

Raissouni, whose lawyers called for her acquittal, denied she had had an abortion, insisting she had received treatment for internal haemorrhage, as backed up by her gynaecologist who has also been arrested.

The defendant, wearing a traditional black robe and green scarf, told the judge she been detained by "a dozen" police officers and forced to take a 20-minute medical examination without anaesthetic to ease the pain.

Raissouni, a 28-year-old journalist, her Sudanese boyfriend, a doctor, a nurse and a medical secretary remain in custody since being detained late last month.

In the rare manifesto published in Moroccan media on Monday, hundreds of Moroccan women declared themselves "outlaws" for violating the North African country's "unfair and obsolete laws".

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"We are having sex outside wedlock. We are suffering, enabling or being complicit of abortion," declared its 490 signatories, including award-winning Franco-Moroccan author Leila Slimani and filmmaker Sonia Terrab.

Article 490 of Morocco's penal code punishes sexual relations out of wedlock, while the law also forbids all abortions unless the mother's life is in danger.

Between 600 and 800 back-shop abortions occur each day in Morocco, according to estimates by campaign groups.

Last year, Morocco tried thousands of people for sex out of wedlock, 170 people for being gay, and 73 for pregnancy terminations.

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

"Instead of intimidating Hajar Raissouni by prosecuting her on unjust charges, the authorities should immediately and unconditionally release her," said Heba Morayef, Amnesty's regional director, last week.

'Political manipulation'

Ahmed Benchemsi, regional communications director at HRW, echoed Morayef's call for all charges to be dropped.

The case had "a whiff of political manipulation since the defendant is a reporter" from one of Morocco's few remaining critical newspapers, he said.

Touafik Bouachrine, the owner of Raissouni's newspaper, was sentenced in November to 12 years in prison on charges of rape and other offences.

He also denies all charges and his lawyers say his trial was politically motivated.

"Abortion-related arrests usually involve the practitioner but almost never the patients," HRW said quoting Chafik Chraibi, president of the Association to Combat Clandestine Abortions.

Journalists and human rights defenders denounced the trial.

"What is happening to Hajar Raissouni... has nothing to do with the penal code," said journalist Omar Radi.

"We must stand up against this political power that uses all sorts of means to silence people," he added.

Karim Tazi, a businessman taking part in the protest outside the courthouse, denounced what he described as a "selective way of implementing laws" in Morocco.

"The decision to abort is a personal one," added Samira Muheya, vice president of the Federation of the Leagues of the Rights of Women.

Morocco's National Council of Human Rights said it planned to submit to authorities soon recommendations aimed at amending the penal code.

This article has been adapted from its original source.    


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