RABAT - Moroccan King’s Prosecutor at the Casablanca Court of Appeal said Monday in a statement that the court has met all conditions guaranteeing a fair trial to journalist Soulaimane Raissouni despite his negative position along with his defence who had chosen to "obstruct the trial instead of continuing the proceedings" as required by law.
Najim Bensami’s statement, a copy of which was received by Middle East Online, came after comments had been circulating on social networks and websites from “the support body for Soulaimane Raissouni” about the verdict against, in which they cited multiple allegations, including his arbitrary detention for eight months without any accusation because of his press opinions; preventing him from viewing his indictment report and violating his right to the presumption of innocence; the court’s refusal of his demands and pleas; forcing him to be absent from the trial by disallowing him to attend the hearing and going into the discussion of the essence of the issue without his presence nor calling his defence.
Contrary to these allegations and to enlighten public opinion, Bensami said it was noteworthy to clarify the following:
- The individual concerned is sued for crimes related to the public right which has nothing to do with his profession as a journalist. He has been notified about the charges and answered them amidst the presence of his defence since being his first appearance before the investigative judge on 25/05/2020,
- The investigative judge’s decision to keep the individual in custody was taken in the total respect of the rule of law. His defence team used its right to appeal the decision before the correctional chamber three times, leading them to approve it after verifying its legitimacy in accordance with the rule of law,
- The defence of the individual concerned have received a copy of all the case’s documents since his first appearance before the investigative judge on 25/05/2020. Both the defence and he have raised the question of not seeing the case’s documents throughout the period of investigation. The court fulfilled his request to get an additional copy of the case’s documents inside the prison to strengthen his defence rights and to ensure his presumption of innocence,
- The acceptance or rejection of requests and defences is at the heart of the court’s discretion and conviction during its discussion of the case,
- The individual concerned had attended nine hearings along with his defence team. His case had been postponed following either his request or his defence’s for a period of four months since the first hearing of 09/02/2021 until the hearing of 10/06/2021. He refused to attend the hearing of 15/06/2021 as evidenced by the prison administration’s report. He was then called to attend the hearing of 22/06/2021 but he refused again, forcing the court to implementation the legal requirements stipulated in the Code of Criminal Procedure, especially Article 423 by sending him a warning to attend through a law enforcement officer. However he insisted on attending. Therefore, it was decided to discuss the case in his absence and assign the court clerk to go to the prison after each hearing to inform him of what happened, which was actually done,
- At the hearing on 07/06/2021, his defence came and announced to the court that it was withdrawing from the case and leaving the courtroom, which forced the court to apply the legal provisions in force as stipulated in Article 317 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. The court ordered the appointment of lawyers to defend the individual concerned within the framework of legal aid, through correspondence with the President of the Bar Association of Casablanca. The latter appointed three lawyers who appeared at the hearing of 07/08/2021 without being able to assume their duties after the members of the defence appointed by the individual concerned also attended, insisting on representing him while renewing their adherence to their previous positions which constituted a continuation of the delay of the trial.
- By applying the provisions of Articles 317 and 423 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, in force in all similar cases without any discrimination as to how to react to the “refusal of the accused to appear” and the “rejection of his defence to exercise its duties”, the court ensured the sound application of the law. Human rights and legal observers can refer to the legal provisions above to ensure their consistency with the circumstances of this case, knowing that a lawyer’s refusal to assist the court, whether in connection with hearings or proceedings, constitutes a professional offense expressly defined as such by Article 39 of the law governing the lawyer’s profession,
- The Public Prosecutor's Office unfortunately noted that instead of complying with the decisions issued by the court after ruling on the grounds raised by the defence of the individual concerned, there was recourse to the disruption of the trial, by imposing the policy of the fait accompli to obstruct the course of proceedings and by forcibly implementing the will of some parties of the case despite the court’s rejection,
- The non-respect of the court’s decisions and the exercise of legal proceedings against them, by seeking to disrupt the course of the trial and by imposing the policy of fait accompli represent a contempt for the decisions of the court and an infringement of its independence,
- The rights of defence of the accused and the presumption of innocence remain guaranteed to the individual concerned in accordance with the law, since he has the right to appeal the decision against him, which brings the case again before the Criminal Appeals Chamber, where he then has the right to present what he deems appropriate for his defence,
- Comments on the judgments are made after their publication and not before, in order to avoid falsehoods that may arise from the case, and which can only be explained by an attempt to influence the court, concluded the statement.
Raissouni was handed a five-year prison sentence on charges of indecent assault against another man.