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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 May, 2003, 15:18 GMT 16:18 UK
Editor jailed for Morocco insult
King Mohamed VI of Morocco
King Mohamed is seen as a moderniser
The editor of two Moroccan satirical weeklies has started a four year prison term for defaming King Mohamed VI.

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

His trial was postponed by a week earlier this month after he went on hunger strike to protest against alleged police harassment and to promote press freedom.

His lawyers said it was the first time since 1971 that a journalist has been given a jail term on similar charges.

As he was led away, Mr Lamrabet urged other reporters to "continue the fight for freedom of the press."

"The interior ministry and the DST (Moroccan intelligence) focussed on my caricatures and drawings instead of looking after the security of the country," he said, referring to Friday's suicide bombings in Casablanca, which claimed 41 lives.


"Prison doesn't scare me," he said, clutching a small bag of personal effects he had prepared in case he was sent to prison.

He said he plans to appeal but under Moroccan law, this does not stop him starting his jail term.

This sentence smacks of vengeance
Younes Moujahid
National Union for the Moroccan Press

Mr Lamrabet is the Moroccan representative of the media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF), which has condemned the charges against him.

His two publications, the French-language Demain and the Arabic-language Doumane were banned by the court in the capital, Rabat.

Mr Lamrabet's lawyers called the sentence "a serious regression for freedom of the press in Morocco."

'Not sacred'

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

Ali Lamrabet
Mr Lamrabet says he is fighting for press freedom

"The worst thing is that they have jailed Ali Lamrabet instead of waiting for him to lodge an appeal. This sentence smacks of vengeance," Younes Moujahid, secretary general of the National Union for the Moroccan Press (SNPM) told the French news agency, AFP.

Communication Minister Nabil Benabdallah said he did not wish to comment on the sentence because it was "a judicial decision" and doing so would undermine the independence of the judiciary.

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

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

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