Morocco to try opposition editor accused of sexual assault

RABAT, May 25 (Reuters) - Morocco will next month hold a preliminary hearing in the trial of the editor of a newspaper critical of the government for sexually assaulting a man, an official source said.

The hearing comes after two of the editor’s colleagues have also faced high-profile court cases since 2019.

Akhbar al-Youm has long been regarded as the newspaper that is most critical of Morocco’s government.

Soulimane Raissouni, the newspaper’s editor, was arrested on Friday and has denied an accusation by a 24-year-old man that he held him prisoner and sexually assaulted him two years ago. Gay sex is against the law in Morocco.

“We have fears this is another politically motivated case because it comes after a campaign targeting Soulimane’s reputation in pro-establishment media,” said Khadija Riadi, an activist with the Moroccan rights group AMDH.

The paper’s founder, Taroufiq Bouachrine, was jailed for 15 years in 2019 for charges that also included sexual assault.

Raissouni’s niece, Hajar Raissouni, who is a journalist at the newspaper, faced trial last year on charges of having an abortion, but received a royal pardon after the case drew widespread outrage.

Ibtissame Lachgar, founder of a feminist group in Morocco which supports gay rights, said that taking Raissouni’s side in the case before the trial encouraged rape culture.

Reporting by Ahmed Eljechtimi; Editing by Angus McDowall and Giles Elgood