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Sunderland's Amnesty International branch calls for release of Moroccan ‘political prisoner’

The Wearside branch of Amnesty International is campaigning for the release of a journalist who they say has been wrongly imprisoned in Morocco.

Tuesday, 14th June 2022, 5:18 pm

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For six months supporters have been sending cards to Omar Radi and writing to the Moroccan authorities. This follows what campaigners say was an “unfair trial” which saw Mr Radi convicted of rape and imprisoned for six years in July 2021.

Amnesty say his imprisonment is because of his work and is typical of the harassment which independent journalists face around the world.

Omar Radi is an investigative journalist and activist from Morocco. He is a founder of and was a journalist at Le Desk, an independent Moroccan news website which publishes content critical of the authorities.

Wearside Amnesty International, seen here in 2021 at their 60th anniversary, are calling for the release of Omar Radi. Picture by Kevin Brady.

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His investigations have focused on political affairs, including the relations between political powers and business elites in Morocco, and investigating alleged corruption by the authorities.

In 2016, he was the author of an investigation report widely known as “Servants of the State” in which he named around 100 senior officials alleged to have illegally acquired state land.

On 23 March 2021, an investigative judge indicted him on espionage charges for “harming the internal and external security of Morocco”, based on an accusation that he had received funds from sources “linked to foreign intelligence agencies”.

Amnesty said: “Needless to say, Wearside Group would not be campaigning on his behalf if we thought the (rape) allegation had any substance.

Omar Radi, now in prison in Morroco. Picture by Fanny Hedenmo.

Amnesty International has found that Omar Radi has received funds transferred from abroad for research grants in the context of a journalism fellowship and freelance consultancies, both related to his exercise of freedom of expression.

“We therefore have serious concerns that the charge is spurious and indicates a similar pattern used by the Moroccan authorities to intimidate critics.

“He denies the allegations. The witness in this case, journalist Imad Stitou, who was present during the alleged incident, has denied throughout the investigation that rape took place.

“Amnesty International has called for the allegations to be properly investigated and for the authorities to ensure Omar Radi is treated fairly and is granted a fair trial.”

Mr Radi held a hunger strike between April 9 and 30, 2021 to protest. In April 2022 he was moved to a jail further from his family home, making visits to him more difficult.

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