A court in Morocco has convicted journalist Hajar Raissouni to a year in jail for having had an “unlawful” abortion and sexual relationship outside of wedlock reported Al Jazeera.

The 28-year-old’s Sudanese fiancé and gynaecologist on Monday were also delivered one and two-year jail sentences, respectively. An anaesthetist and medical support were given suspended sentences of a year and eight months, too.

Raissouni was detained on August 31 as she left a clinic in the capital, Rabat. There her lawyer Saad Sahli stated that she had been undergoing treatment for bodily bleeding. But the state asserted she showed signs of fertility and of having undergone a “late voluntary abortion.”

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Key Takeaways:

  • Hajar Raissouni was convicted for a year in prison in Morocco for allegedly getting abortion done.
  • Her fiancé and gynaecologist are sentenced to one and two years in prison respectively.
  • Raissouni claims that she visited the clinic to get a treatment for internal bleeding.
  • Many groups have condemned the court’s actions and have appealed for a retrial.

Morocco protests as journalist faces jail over alleged abortion

It was emphasised in a report that her detention had “nothing to do with her role as a journalist.” But lawyers for Raissouni said she was being entrapped for a crime she did not perform.

“This trial had no basis – the charges were baseless,” defence lawyer Abdelmoula El Marouri said after the judgment. Raissouni was imprisoned under Article 490 of the legal code of the kingdom, which penalises sexual relations out of marriage.

“This trial had no basis – the charges were baseless,” defence lawyer Abdelmoula El Marouri said after the judgment. Raissouni was imprisoned under Article 490 of the legal code of the kingdom, which penalises sexual relations out of marriage.

Raissouni alleged she was captured outside the clinic she had visited for an “urgent intervention” and not an abortion, which is banned in the Muslim-majority country. Police reportedly forced Raissouni into a medical exam at the time of her confinement.

Meriem Moulay Rachid, the lawyer for the sentenced gynaecologist, responded saying, “The judicial system has had its word, but we will appeal.”

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Obsolete laws

Raissouni seemed content when appearing at the courtroom. She waved to her relatives before taking her seat at the dock. She refused having had an abortion and restated that she was administered for internal bleeding – an assertion backed up by her gynaecologist.

The journalist blamed a “political trial,” saying police had interviewed her about her family – including an uncle who is a candid newspaper columnist – and about her reporting. Her lawyers called the medical test a “humiliation equivalent to torture,” while they also named the “judicial police failures” and “fabricated proof.”

The incident has created a storm in Morocco, generating discussion on personal liberties and the treatment of public figures. It has also acquired considerable awareness far beyond the country’s frontiers.

Reporters Without Borders said Raissouni’s treatment amounted to “meddling in the private lives of journalists and the use of personal knowledge” with the intent of slander. Between 600 and 800 back-shop abortions occur each day in Morocco, according to estimations by campaign organisations.

In a declaration issued on September 23 by various Moroccan media outlets, hundreds of women claimed themselves “outlaws” by alleging to have already violated the “obsolete” laws of their country on abortion and other civil standards.

“This is a setback to women’s rights in Morocco,” said Raouia Briki, Amnesty International’s campaigner on Morocco. “It’s a warning that amelioration to the regressive abortion law and the law which criminalises sex outside marriage are necessary.”

Condemning the action

“This is a setback to women’s rights in Morocco,” said Raouia Briki, Amnesty International’s campaigner on Morocco. “It’s a warning that amelioration to the regressive abortion law and the law which criminalises sex outside marriage are necessary.”

Loubna Rais of the Moroccan feminist collective Masaktach stated that Raissouni’s sentence was evidence of a shortage of fundamental rights in the nation. “Women in particular, who are the most exposed to this kind of unjust oppression, are fighting for basic private freedoms, the right to their bodies and private lives,” she told the Guardian.

“Punishing the doctor to two years and Hajar to one, the officials would like us to think this whole lawsuit is about illegal abortion. But we are all well informed that this was just the pretence to hush a journalist’s power to free speech. Along with a woman’s right to her own life and body, even if her associations appear threatening to political interests.”

Read Also: A concise history of the US abortion debate

Image: Youssef Boudlal/Reuters

Saumya Rastogi is an intern with SheThePeople.TV

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