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Moroccan court sentences 2 journalists in defamation case

Rabat, Morocco, 12/30 - The Appeal court in Casablanca on Thursday gave two journalists of the Moroccan Weekly `Tel Quel` a suspended sentence of two months of imprisonment and fined them 72,000 euros after being found guilty of defamation, judicial sources affirmed Rabat.

The magistrates` court of Casablanca (100 km south of Rabat) had sentenced, on 15 August, Ahmed Réda Benchemsi, director of `Tel Quel` (independent) and Karim Boukhari, author of the incriminating article, to a suspended sentence of two months of imprisonment.

The court fined them to pay 2,500 euros each to Halima Assali, an MP of the ruling People`s Movement party in the Moroccan Lower House of parliament.

The sources said the court also condemned the two journalists to pay 100,000 euros in damages, a reduced fine in appeal, but acquitted them of the charge of "incitement to racism".

Halima Assali had sued Réda Benchemssi Karim Boukhari following the publication last July of an article, which he deemed defamatory to his person.

In this satirical pamphlet entitled "Secret d`une brune" (Secret of a Brown one), Karim Boukhari had retraced the career of Mrs Assali, describing her as former "cheïkha" (popular dancer) and telling them how she became a parliamentarian by being a member of a political party.

`Tel Quel` is also sued in defamation, in another case, by the president of a Casablanca-based Child Assistance Association, Touria Jâidi. The paper had published a piece of news suggesting that the association had been summoned by the police to answer for embezzlement.

The Appeal court will make a ruling on 3 January on this case.

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