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Morocco detains journalist for 'illegal sex, abortion' Open in fullscreen

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Morocco detains journalist for 'illegal sex, abortion'

Hajar Raissouni potentially faces time in prison [Facebook]

Date of publication: 6 September, 2019

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Amnesty International has called on the Moroccan government to release journalist Hajar Raissouni for 'pre-marital sex and illegal abortion', while many believe she was arrested for her journalism instead.
The Moroccan government has been pressured to release a woman from prison after she was detained for having an "unlawful abortion" after having "pre-marital sex".

Hajar Raissouni, who works for Akhbar al-Yaoum newspaper, was arrested on August 31 along with her fiance Amin Rifaat, as they left a doctor's office in Rabat on suspicion of having an abortion.

The doctor and two others working at the clinic were also arrested after it was suspected they carried out the procedure.

Following her arrest, Hajar was detained at a police station in Rabat.

On Monday, she was sent to a prosecutor and charged with sex outside of marriage and "consenting to have an abortion".

Hajar's lawyer Saad Sahli said medical tests had found no concrete evidence of an abortion.

On Thursday, the Rabat prosecutor's office revealed results of Hajar's medical examinations in a breach of her privacy and stated the clinic she had visited was under surveillance on suspicion of providing abortion services.

Rights watchdog Amnesty International on Friday slammed her arrest unjust and an invasion of privacy.

"The arrest of Hajar Raissouni and four others is completely unjust and these allegations are an outrageous invasion of her privacy," Heba Morayef, Amnesty International's regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, said in a statement.

Pre-marital sex is outlawed in Morocco. Cases of abortion are also illegal, under the exception of the pregnancy posing a health risk to the pregnant woman - even then she can only get an abortion if her husband agrees to it.

Under her country's law, Hajar can face imprisonment of up to one year for pre-marital sex. An abortion sentence in Morocco can range between six months and two years with a fine.

Cover-up?

In addition to Hajar's lawyer's comments, stating there was no concrete evidence of her having an abortion, Hajar said she has been interrogated about her political writings.

On Wednesday, she sent a letter to her newspaper saying whilst in custody, she was interrogated about her journalism.

She added she was interrogated about one of her colleagues at her newspaper and was questioned about her family, including her uncle Ahmed Raissouni, a prominent theologist and the ex-president of the Mouvement de l'Unicité et de la Réforme (MUR), considered to be one of the largest Islamic movements in Morocco. 

This letter has led many to believe she may have been targeted as a result of her political writings and family affiliations as opposed to having pre-marital sex.

Supporters of Hajar suspect a reason behind her arrest was that in May she interviewed the father of Nasser Zefzafi, the leader of protests that broke out in Rif.

Rabat denies she is being arrested on political grounds.

Hajar is due to another trial session on Friday.


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