- Activists criticized Raissouni's sentence and saw her case as part of a crackdown on independent journalists in Morocco.
- Raissouni, her fiance, and doctor were convicted, jailed, and pardoned.
- In March 2015, King Mohammed VI ordered a committee to consult on the review of abortion laws.
Moroccan King Mohammed VI has pardoned journalist Hajar Raissouni, who was sentenced to a year in prison for having sex outside marriage and then having an abortion. The Justice Ministry said the king’s intervention in the case, which sparked widespread reactions, came out of “compassion.” The 28-year-old Moroccan journalist was released and was lifted out of prison on Wednesday with her Sudanese fiancé, who was also charged in the case.
Activists criticized Raissouni’s sentence and saw her case as part of a crackdown on independent journalists in Morocco. Raissouni is a journalist for the independent Akhbar al-Youm newspaper and has been critical of the authorities. Authorities arrested Raissouni as she and her fiance walked out of a gynecological clinic in the capital, Rabat, in August. She denied all charges, saying she had sought treatment for internal bleeding.
She was sent to an urgent trial and was adjudicated last September, denouncing and criticizing the case as a “political trial.” The prosecutor in the case said that the journalist’s detention conditions had nothing to do with her work and profession and the clinic she visited was under police surveillance on suspicion of illegal abortion.
Her fiance, Sudanese academic and human rights activist Rifaat al-Amin, was convicted by the same verdict. The court sentenced him to one year in prison. The court also convicted Mohammed Jamal Belkeziz, Raissouni’s doctor, for alleged complicity. He was sentenced to two years in prison, with a fine of five hundred dirhams ($52), and prevented from practicing the medical profession for two years from the day of his release. The nurse was convicted of a one-year suspended sentence and a 500 dirham ($52) fine.
Controversy over abortion law
“A clandestine abortion is practiced in Morocco at an average of 600 to 800 cases a day,” says the Moroccan Association for Combating Secret Abortion. Moroccan criminal law also criminalizes abortion in articles 449 and 454. The law permits abortion “if it is necessary to preserve the health of the mother when publicly performed by a doctor or surgeon with the permission of the husband.”
Moroccan law also criminalizes extramarital sexual relations. Jurists have been demanding for years to change and modernize personal status laws in Morocco. This movement has led to changes on paper that are still awaiting parliamentary approval.
In March 2015, King Mohammed VI ordered a committee, composed of the Minister of Justice and Freedoms, the Minister of Islamic Affairs, and the President of the National Council for Human Rights, to consult on the review of abortion laws. The committee has already concluded that cases of abortion will be expanded in a government-approved bill that parliamentarians are demanding to pass, although they see it as not meeting all their aspirations, consider it a first step to build on.