The State Department yesterday criticised Morocco for sentencing detained journalist, Suleiman Raissouni, to five years in prison and called for press freedoms to be protected.
"We believe the judicial process that led to this verdict contradicts the Moroccan system's fundamental promise of fair trials for individuals accused of crimes and is inconsistent with the promise of the 2011 constitution and His Majesty King Mohammed VI's reform agenda," State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.
"Press freedom is foundational to prosperous and secure societies, and governments must ensure that journalists can safely perform their essential roles without fear of unjust attention, violence, or threats," he added.
On Friday, a court in Casablanca sentenced the editor-in-chief of the now-defunct Akhbar Al Yaoum, Suleiman Raissouni to five years in prison and fined him 100,000 dirhams ($11,205) on charges of "sexually assaulting" another man.
Raissouni, who had been on a hunger strike for 93 days, denies the charges.
The Moroccan public prosecution said Raissouni received a "fair" trial, stressing that he had been "prosecuted for crimes that have nothing to do with his journalistic work".
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called on the Moroccan authorities to release Raissouni, and to "stop making trumped-up accusations of sexual assault against journalists."
As many as 350 Moroccan and foreign political figures, intellectuals, and journalists have appealed to Raissouni to stop his hunger strike.