RABAT, Morocco – A Moroccan court has convicted an investigative journalist of adultery and starting a brothel, sentencing him to 10 months in prison in a verdict that the head of a local media freedom organization said Tuesday is meant to intimidate him.
Police burst into the home of Hicham Mansouri on March 17 where he was discovered with a woman, and he was beaten and hauled to the police station, said Maati Monjib, the head of the Freedom Now organization. The court issued its verdict late Monday.
“We condemn this political exploitation of justice by the regime,” said Monjib, describing the charges as trumped up. “The regime is finding new ways to attack its opponents.”
Mansouri, who was also fined 4,000 euros ($4,340), is a member of the Moroccan Association for Investigative Journalism and had been working on a piece about electronic surveillance by the state when he was arrested, Monjib said.
At the time of his arrest, authorities issued a statement saying he was arrested “in the process of preparing the location for prostitution and participating in adultery with a married woman.” The woman was later revealed to be divorced.
The International Federation for Human Rights had earlier condemned the arrest and detention of Mansouri and called for his release, describing him as a political prisoner.
The Moroccan government prides itself on its press freedom but has been harshly criticized by media watchdogs. In the Reporters Without Borders 2015 Index of Press Freedom, Morocco ranks 130 out of 180 countries.
Having sexual relations outside of wedlock is illegal according to the penal code, but the law is rarely enforced.