Morroco: Al Jazeera journalist on "a political" trial (updated)
UPDATES: Al Jazeera lawyers quit Rabat trial By Ahmed El Amraoui in Rabat Rachidi is facing prosecution under Article 42 of the country's press code [AFP] The trial of Hassan Rachidi, Al Jazeera's bureau chief in Morocco, has been adjourned, after the defence team walked out when their pleas were brushed aside by the presiding judge. The marathon second court session opened, following a three-day recess, at the Rabat First Instance Court at 9am (0800GMT) on Friday in the presence of up to 50 defence attorneys who volunteered to defend Al Jazeera. After 11 hours of stormy debate, and the collective walk out of the defence team, the trial was adjourned until July 11. The judge rejected all the defence's pleas and the team quit over a "lack of fair trial conditions", accusing the judge of biased and dismissing the trial as political. The presiding judge and the attorney general then addressed a few questions to Rachidi, who pleaded not guilty and insisted that he did his job as a professional journalist and provided both sides of the story in question.
Journalists are some times subject to political challenges and confrontation with their governments. In this case, Al Jazeera's bureau chief in Morocco- Hassan Rachidi - will confront allegations over the veracity of information printed and conspiracy. Rachidi is accused of misinforming people over the death of people during demonstrations against unemployment at Sidi Ifni on June 7, 2008. They were supposedly killed in confrontation with Morroco security forces. The government claimed there were no death at all and took Rachidi to trial.
Al Jazeera journalist on trial
By Ahmed El Amraoui in Rabat
Hassan Rachidi has expressed confidence in the Moroccan justice system
The trial of Al Jazeera's bureau chief in Morocco, on charges of conspiracy and spreading false information, has resumed after a stormy first hearing on Tuesday.
Mohammed el-Alaoui, the presiding judge, had rejected an appeal by the defence team for more time to better prepare for the case, giving lawyers for Hassan Rachidi only three days to get ready.
The second court session opened at the Rabat First Instance Court on Friday.
The way the court is pushing ahead with the case with just a short three-day adjournment for lawyers to prepare, has led many human rights activists, journalists and lawyers to believe that the trial is politically motivated.
In previous cases against journalists in Morocco, proceedings were adjourned for at least a week and often two.
Khalid Soufiani, who is leading the defence team, told Al Jazeera that "this is a political trial".
"The withdrawal of press accreditation from Rachidi before the closure of the case is a political stance and not a judicial one. This stance does not show any respect to justice and can be explained only as a political decision."
Two sides of story
Rachidi, who has pleaded not guilty, said that he did his job as journalist and provided two sides of the story in question.
But while he was surprised by the short term postponement, Rachidi expressed confidence in the Moroccan justice system.
Soufiani, right, and Menna agreed that the trial was politically motivated "I trust the Moroccan system of justice and all I want is a fair trial," he said.
Rachidi is charged with reporting that people were killed in clashes with security forces in the southwestern port city of Sidi Ifni on June 7 during a protest over poverty and rising unemployment.
Moroccan authorities have rejected as "false" and "absurd" reports of deaths, saying that 48 people were injured, including 28 police officers, but that no deaths occurred.
Although Al Jazeera reported the government's denial, the Rabat chief prosecutor’s office ordered a probe to determine how the false information was disseminated.