Morocco arrests former human rights minister Mohammed Ziane

Moroccan authorities on Monday arrested former human rights minister and lawyer Mohammed Ziane, the same day an appeals court upheld an initial judgment of three years' imprisonment, the prosecutor's office in Rabat said.

Human rights advocates had contested the charges against Ziane, who is also the founder of the Moroccan Liberal Party.

He was found guilty of charges including insulting and attempting to influence the judiciary, instigating people to violate measures to contain COVID-19 using social media, contempt of institutions, adultery, sexual harassment and setting a bad example for children, the prosecutor's office said in a statement.

A national body of rights activists defending prisoners of conscience said in a statement on Monday that it was “extremely shocked at the arbitrary arrest” of Ziane, who is also a former head of the Bar Association.

Ziane was an outspoken critic of Moroccan public authorities and has defended many journalists taken to court in what human rights advocates have called trumped-up charges.

Earlier this month, a Moroccan court sentenced human rights activist Rida Benotmane to three years in jail on the charge of contempt for institutions after he used social media to urge protests against restrictive measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 last year.

In September, Fatima Karim was sentenced to two years in prison for "insulting Islam" after she published on her Facebook page satirical posts on the religion.    (Reuters)