Moroccan journalist arrested for abortion


Human rights groups urge authorities to release Hajar Raissouni.


Rights groups urged Moroccan authorities on Friday to immediately release a journalist arrested for "illegal abortion" - a charge her lawyers deny.

Hajar Raissouni writes in the Arabic-language daily Akhbar Al-Yaoum, which has a history of disagreement with the authorities.

She was arrested on Saturday while leaving a clinic in Rabat, where her lawyer, Saad Sahli, said she was undergoing internal bleeding treatment.

But the 28-year-old journalist was examined by a doctor. Prosecutors said on Wednesday she showed signs of pregnancy and underwent "late voluntary abortion."

In a statement, she insisted that her detention "has nothing to do with her journalistic career."

Raissouni, who is religiously married but has not yet been legally married, is also accused of "extramarital sexual relations" and faces a court hearing on Monday.

Her uncle Souleymane Raissouni told AFP that her lawyer is filing a complaint against the police forcing her to undergo a medical examination.

Her fiancé, doctor, nurse and secretary were also arrested.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International on Friday joined social media users in calling for her release.

"Instead of intimidating Hajar Raissouni by prosecuting her on unfair charges, the authorities should release her immediately and unconditionally," said Heba Morayef, Amnesty International's regional director.

Ahmed Benchemsi, regional communications director at Human Rights Watch, echoed Morayef's call to drop all charges.

He said the case was "a whiff of political manipulation because the defendant is a correspondent from one of the last Moroccan newspapers."

Touafik Bouachrine, owner of the Raissouni's newspaper, was sentenced to 12 years in prison in November for rape and other crimes.

He also denies all charges and his lawyers say his trial was politically motivated.

The arrest of Raissouni sparked a heated debate on the Internet, and about 150 journalists signed a petition against "defamation campaigns" against it.

Moroccan law punishes abortions with imprisonment of up to five years, except where the mother's life is in danger.

However, NGOs say that up to 800 women are secretly aborted every day in the North African country.