3/10/2013 pomed: Moroccan Journalist and Saudi Arabian Activist Arrested

Moroccan Journalist and Saudi Arabian Activist Arrested

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The United States yesterday expressed concern over Morocco’s decision to arrest journalist Ali Anouzla. Marie Harf, deputy spokesperson stated: “We are concerned with the Government of Morocco’s decision to charge Mr. Anouzla. We support freedom of expression and of the press, as we say all the time, universal rights that are an indispensable part of any society. We urge the Moroccan authorities to treat his case in a fair and transparent manner, in accordance with Moroccan law and Morocco’s international obligations, including due process.” Anzoula, an outspoken critic of the regime, was charged with “inciting” and “providing material support” for terrorism. The Washington Post reports that Morocco is punishing Anouzla for his “courageous and critical reporting about King Mohammed.”

The arrest took place amid negotiations to form a new alliance between the Islamist-leaning Justice and Development Party (PJD) and the National Rally of Independents (RNI) to form a second government. Hanane Zelouani Idrissi reports that “this prospective alliance embodies yet another betrayal of Moroccans’ call for accountability and good governance.”

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabian authorities arrested prominent human rights activist and lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair for hosting a weekly gathering, a “diwaniah”, with reformists. Joe Stork, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa division said that Saudi authorities have sunk to a new low by arresting Waleed Abu al-Khair. Human Rights Watch reports that in 2013 alone, Saudi Arabian courts have convicted at least seven prominent human rights and civil society activists based on charges related to their exercise of their rights to free expression and association. In late July 2013, the U.S. expressed concern about  Saudi Arabia’s restriction on freedom of expression, following the sentence of blogger Raef Badawi to seven years and 600 lashes for allegedly insulting the virtue police. Jen Psaki, spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State said: “We are deeply concerned that the authorities sentenced Raef Badawi, a blogger and founder of the Free Saudi Liberals website, to seven years in prison and 600 lashes. We believe that when public speech is deemed offensive, be it via social media or any other means, the issue is best addressed through open dialogue and honest debate.”

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