Moroccan Journalist Omar Radi Breaks Hunger Strike Due to Ill Health

JAILED Moroccan journalist Omar Radi has suspended his three-week hunger strike due to a “significant deterioration” of his health, his father said Friday.

Radi and fellow journalist Soulaimane Raissouni began hunger strikes earlier in April demanding to be provisionally released, having been held in detention for months awaiting a verdict on their cases.

Radi, 34, decided to “temporarily suspend his hunger strike” due to “the significant deterioration of his health over the past two days”, his father Driss Radi said on Facebook.

Raissouni, on hunger strike for 23 days, continues his protest.

Known for his human rights work, Radi was placed in pre-trial detention in July charged with receiving foreign funds for the purpose of harming “state security”, the justice ministry said at the time.

He is also accused separately of rape. He denies all charges, and “continues to defend his constitutional right to a fair trial”, his father added.

Radi’s trial has been postponed twice, with the next hearing scheduled for May 18.

Raissouni, chief editor of Moroccan independent daily Akhbar Al-Yaoum, faces charges of “indecent assault” against another man. He also denies all charges.

‘Press freedom in Morocco under siege’

Supporters allege the cases are part of a defamation campaign targeting journalists and rights activists critical of Moroccan authorities.

In a statement released earlier this month calling for a fair trial for Radi, the New York-based Human Rights Watch noted that his arrest comes “in a context where what remains of press freedom in Morocco is under siege, and those who dare to publicly criticize the increasingly repressive regime face prosecution on dubious charges and slander campaigns by media closely aligned with the authorities. Amid these attacks, Akhbar al-Yaoum, one of the last independent newspapers in the country, ended its operations after 14 years.” 

The statement, which was also signed by 14 other leading human rights groups, called on the international community to “press Moroccan authorities to ensure that no defendant is detained pretrial except on the basis of compelling reasons that are spelled out and reviewed regularly by an independent judicial body. Detention before trial should be the exception, not the rule”.

The Moroccan government denies the claims and has stressed the independence of the judiciary.

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