Morocco court hands Salafist suspended sentence for apostasy accusation
CASABLANCA - A Moroccan court handed a Salafist sheikh a suspended one month jail sentence on Wednesday for accusing a leading opposition politician of "apostasy" after he called for a ban on polygamy.
Abdelhamid Abounaim, 58, was found guilty of "defamation" and "undermining an organised institution," and was also given a 500 dirham (45 euro) fine.
The lawyers for the defendant, who was absent when the ruling was issued, did not say whether he would appeal.
Abounaim distributed a video late last year in which he accused Driss Lachgar, the head of the opposition socialist party USFP, of "apostasy".
Several days earlier Lachgar had called for the Islamic custom of taking more than one wife to be outlawed and urged a debate on the inheritance rights of women, which are half what men receive on the death of a relative.
The affair sparked controversy in Morocco, and followed a similar dispute in Tunisia which led to the new constitution being amended to make it unlawful to accuse someone of apostasy.
A bill has been tabled by the PAM opposition party that would "criminalise excommunication" in Morocco, a relatively tolerant Muslim country, although Salafists have also called for atheism to be punished.
King Mohamed VI reformed Morocco's family code in 2004 to make polygamy more difficult, with the consent of other spouses and the permission of a court needed for a man to take another wife, but he stopped short of banning it.