RABAT (Reuters) - Moroccan police have arrested the editor of a news website critical of the government after he posted a video message from al Qaeda’s North African wing on his site that urged Moroccans to rise up against their rulers.
Ali Anouzla, the editor of Lakome.com, was first accused of posting a video containing a direct call to violence, a statement released by the attorney general and carried by the state news agency said on Tuesday. A later statement from the Justice Ministry merely accused him of publishing an Internet link to the video.
“The general prosecutor has given his orders to the police to proceed to the arrest of the director of that electronic newspaper for investigation,” the attorney general’s statement said.
The video, titled “Morocco, the kingdom of corruption and despotism”, received front-page coverage in Moroccan papers last week, though it was unclear if other websites had made the clip available to their readers.
“It is very sad to see the extreme (far western) Maghreb taken hostage by such a regime, a traitor to Allah and his Prophet and all believers,” Mosab Abdelouadoud, leader of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), says in the 41-minute video.
A voiceover adds: “Young people of Morocco, rise up and participate in jihad (holy struggle) with your brothers, until sharia (Islamic law) prevails in all the regions of Morocco.”
The video contained clips of Morocco’s King Mohammed meeting former U.S. president George W. Bush, and accused the country of supporting Bush and a “Jewish-Crusader union” in their fight against Islamist militants.
Morocco’s government has always denied accusations from rights groups that it allowed its territory to be used by U.S. intelligence agents to torture suspected Islamist militants during Bush’s time in office.
Morocco has itself suffered numerous bomb attacks by suspected Islamist guerrillas, most recently in 2011 in Marrakesh, but militant groups have so far failed to gain a foothold in the kingdom.
Anouzla is well known in Morocco for his columns critical of the government and his calls for greater press freedom.
Moroccan television is tightly controlled by the state. Text journalists enjoy more freedom, but run the risk of being imprisoned for critical writings.
Outspoken publications have been forced out of business, mostly by what they say is political pressure on their advertisers.
The link that Anouzla was accused of providing led to a version of the video hosted by the Spanish newspaper El Pais.
The link was disabled on Tuesday evening, after the Moroccan Justice Ministry said it had raised its concerns with the Spanish government.
Reporting By Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Kevin Liffey