Jailed Moroccan journalist rejects espionage charge

Omar Radi was sentenced in July to six years in prison for espionage and rape. PHOTO: RSF.ORG

CASABLANCA (AFP) - Jailed Moroccan journalist and rights activist Omar Radi, appealing a conviction for espionage, denied on Tuesday (Feb 22) delivering sensitive information to two British consultancy firms.

Radi was sentenced in July to six years in prison for espionage and rape.

His trial had begun in 2020 just days after rights group Amnesty International charged that Moroccan authorities had planted Israel-made Pegasus spyware on his cellphone.

Moroccan authorities denied the report and "categorically rejected" using Israeli spyware to monitor critics at home and abroad.

Radi - who has protested his innocence throughout - faced charges of rape and "undermining the internal security of the state" in two separate cases investigated separately but judged together.

Radi's arrest and detention provoked protests from rights activists, intellectuals and politicians both inside Morocco and abroad.

"I have only done my work as a journalist based on data open to the public," he said on Tuesday before the Casablanca Court of Appeals.

The court said the charges relate to a pair of British consultancy firms for which Radi was said to have conducted "due diligence" studies.

Radi is among three journalists known for their criticism of authorities to have been issued prison sentences of five years or more since 2018 over indecent assault or rape charges, which they deny.

Moroccan authorities say Radi's case has "nothing to do with his journalistic work" and they denounce an "international campaign of defamation".

Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders ranked Morocco 136 out of 180 countries in its 2021 World Press Freedom Index.

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