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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 May, 2003, 16:48 GMT 17:48 UK
Moroccan editor on hunger strike
King Mohamed VI of Morocco
King Mohamed is seen as a moderniser
The trial of the editor of a Moroccan satirical weekly has been postponed after he went on hunger strike.

Ali Lamrabet is accused of "insulting the king's person" and "undermining [Morocco's] territorial integrity" in recent articles and cartoons.

He stopped eating on Tuesday to protest against police harassment and to promote press freedom, he said.

Correspondents say that although there has been some liberalisation, legal restrictions remain on published comments on the monarchy, Islam, and Morocco's claim to Western Sahara.

Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has criticised the Moroccan authorities over its press laws in a report timed to coincide with Mr Lamrabet's trial.

RSF said that Morocco's media was among the most free in the Arab world but said problems include "the lack of independence of the judiciary, the difficulty of tackling sensitive subjects such as the monarch, the increasing intervention of so-called security services" and political pressure on publishers and printers.

'Not sacred'

Mr Lamrabet edits both the French-language Demain Magazine and the Arabic-language Doumane weeklies.

"For me, as a citizen with rights, the king is not sacred - with all the respect that is due to him as head of state," he told Reuters news agency.

Ali Lamrabet
Mr Lamrabet says he is fighting for press freedom

Last year, he was sentenced to four months in prison for publishing an article saying that a royal palace was up for sale.

His trial was adjourned until 13 May.

"We'd like to see all these kinds of court cases stopped, so as to create a positive, open environment for the press," secretary general of the Moroccan National Press Union Younes Moujahid said.

Mohamed VI was seen as a moderniser when he became king in 1999.

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