Alleged victims of Morocco newspaper editor suffer ‘pressure'

The case continues

CASABLANCA - The alleged victims of a Moroccan newspaper boss, tried in Casablanca on charges of sexual violence, suffer "threats and pressure," said Friday Najim Bensami, Attorney General of the King at the Court of Appeal of Casablanca.
Taoufiq Bouachrine, director of the independent Moroccan daily Akhbar Al-Yaoum, was arrested on February 23 on charges of sexual violence.
Incarcerated in Casablanca prison, he has been on trial since March 8 in an often stormy atmosphere.
The case has drawn the interest of the Moroccan media, with bursts of reactions and opinions very divided, because of the fame of the accused and the gravity of the charges: "human trafficking", "abuse of power for sexual purposes","rape and attempted rape"...
"We have information that confirms that the complainants are under pressure and threats from the entourage (of Mr. Bouachrine), or are offered financial arrangements," Najim Bensami said.
"We have the duty to protect them (...) from the moment they appear in the seized videos, we consider them as victims even if they do not complain," he added.
"There is the presumption of innocence and it is the judge who will have the last word, but we defend the pursuit we have undertaken in full compliance with laws and procedures," said Bensami.
Lawyers for 49-year-old Bouachrine, known for critical editorials, challenged the "flagrante delicto" procedure, denounced the "falsification of minutes" and demanded the release of their client.
"If the defence considers that the proceedings were not respected, it has to request the cancellation of the minutes to the court," said the attorney general.
The charges are based on videos seized in the Bouachrine's office at the time of his arrest. 15 women were "civil parties," according to the judge of the Criminal Division of the Casablanca Court of Appeal.
Eight of them were absent Thursday in court. Of these, at least three have already indicated that they have nothing to reproach the accused.
Rape complaints are rare in Morocco: victims fear the effects on their reputation in a society that remains largely conservative and fear to be prosecuted themselves because sex outside marriage is prohibited.