Africa Moroccan journalist appears before judge on espionage charge

Moroccan journalist appears before judge on espionage charge

A prominent Moroccan journalist and activist appeared before an investigating judge in Casablanca on Thursday to face charges of spying in a case that has raised concerns over press freedoms in the North African kingdom.

Omar Radi, a 34-year-old investigative journalist and human rights activist, faces charges of “undermining state security, receiving foreign funding and collaborating with foreign intelligence.”

Radi has been in custody in Casablanca since being arrested last July on espionage and rape charges. Rights groups say that the charges are politically motivated.

Thursday’s hearing lasted about 15 minutes, according to Radi’s father, Driss Radi, who maintains that the charges against his son are “empty.”

“He remains in good spirits especially after he had the chance to see his mother for the first time in five months” in the courthouse, he added.

In March, Radi was given a four-month suspended sentence and fined 500 Moroccan dirhams ($52) for criticizing a judge on Twitter for upholding harsh prison sentences against anti-government protesters.

The espionage charges are more serious and could carry a much heavier sentence if he is convicted when the case reaches a full trial. He is also facing separate rape charges that his supporters say are baseless.

In June, Radi was the subject of an Amnesty International report that said Moroccan authorities had unlawfully spied on the journalist through his phone using sophisticated surveillance software. The Moroccan government disputed that.