Al Jazeera for Morocco trial delay

Adjournment to be sought to prepare for the defence of channel’s bureau chief.

The prosecution has to prove that Rachidi broadcast his information in bad faith [AFP]
The prosecution has to prove that Rachidi broadcast his information in bad faith [AFP]

Khalid Soufiani, head of a five-man defence panel, told al Jazeera on Thursday that he would ask the Rabat Court of First Instance for the postponement to give the defence team more time to better prepare for the case. 

Soufiani said the court was expected to shelve the trial.

Denial reported

Moroccan officials say that 48 people were injured, including 28 police officers, but that no deaths occurred in the clashes.

Soufiani, centre, says Al Jazeera is facing a clampdown on press freedom

Rachidi has been charged, despite broadcasting the Moroccan denial.

He is being prosecuted under Article 42 of the country’s press code.

The offence is punishable by a prison term of between one and twelve months and a fine of between 1,200 and 100,000 DH ($165 and $13,750).

Soufiani said that the press code requires that two conditions be satisfied in order to convict someone for publishing false information under Article 42.

“The first condition is the publication of false information with the intention of bad faith and, second, that that publication disturbs the public order,” Soufiani said.

The defence team leader said that the prosecution has to prove that Rachidi acted in bad faith by publishing a story knowing that it was false.

Soufiani said: “If the prosecutor can not prove bad faith in publishing the story in order to disturb the public order, legally there should be no trial.

“Al Jazeera coverage of Sidi Ifni events was highly professional. The channel properly sourced a human right group and at the same time it reported the stance of Moroccan authorities in the same story, which prove that there was no bad faith in reporting the story.

“As long as there is no professional mistake, there is no bad faith in publishing the story.”

Several sources

Soufini said that the defence team will try to convince the court that Rachidi did not act in bad faith as he had obtained his information from a human rights group, political activists and other sources, and had broadcast the story without the intention to harm anyone.

He said: “The human right group went public and told a press conference that between one and five people were killed during the demonstration.

“Unlike Al Jazeera, which quoted the source, some Moroccan newspapers reported the same story in their front pages without quoting a single source.”

Soufiani described Rabat’s confiscation of Rachidi’s press accreditation hours after he was charged as “a big political mistake and an attempt to influence judges. It is a condemnation before trial”.

“What Al Jazeera is facing is part of a clampdown on press freedom.”

Source: Al Jazeera


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