After a stormy first hearing on Tuesday, the trial of Hassan Rachidi (photo, from daylife.com), Al Jazeera’s bureau chief in Morocco is set to resume on Friday. The charges are conspiracy and spreading false information.
Mohammed el-Alaoui, the presiding judge at the trial of Al Jazeera’s bureau chief in Morocco, has rejected on Tuesday an appeal by the defence team, asking for more time in order to better prepare the case.
The 20 defence lawyers who volunteered to defend Al Jazeera are expected to attend the second court session, due to resume at the Rabat First Instance Court, around 9am.
Many human rights activists, journalists and lawyers have been brought to believe that the trial is politically motivated, because of the way the court is pushing ahead with the case, giving lawyers only a short three-day adjournment for to prepare.
In Morocco, proceedings were adjourned for at least a week, and often two, in previous cases against journalists.
“This is a political trial”, Khalid Soufiani, who is leading the defence team, told Al Jazeera.
‘Speed up the indictment’
“All other ordinary cases in today’s hearings were shelved till September and October, except ours”, he added.
“Though we appealed to the judge to give us more time to better prepare our argument and to treat this case as any other ordinary one, he dismissed our appeal.”
Another defence lawyer, Lhbib Haji, called it “bad faith from the authorities in order to speed up the indictment”.
“It is a clear violation of all human rights charters.”
“Unfortunately, this is a political trial”, concurred Haytham Menna, a spokesperson for the Arab Commission for Human Rights.
“The withdrawal of press accreditation from Rachidi before the closure of the case is a political stance and not a judicial one. This stance does not show any respect to justice and can be explained only as a political decision.”
Hassan Rachidi pleaded not guilty and said he did his job as journalist, by providing two sides of the story in question.
Though he was surprised by the short term postponement, Mr Rachidi expressed his confidence in the Moroccan justice system.
“I trust the Moroccan system of justice and all I want is a fair trial”, he said.
Mr Rachidi is charged with reporting that people were killed in clashes with security forces in the southwestern port city of Sidi Ifni on June 7, during a protest over poverty and rising unemployment. But reports of deaths have been rejected as “false” and “absurd” by Moroccan authorities, who said that 48 people were injured, including 28 police officers, but that nobody was killed.
Even though the government’s denial has been reported by Al Jazeera, a probe to determine how the false information was disseminated was ordered by the Rabat chief prosecutor’s office.
Hassan Rachidi could be sentenced to a prison term of between one and 12 months a fine of up to $13,750, if convicted.