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Morocco: ex-minister who accused intelligence service of faking video is imprisoned

Mohammed Ziane who served as head of the human rights ministry will see out his 3-year sentence for claiming the police faked a 2021 video purportedly showing him in a compromising situation with a married woman in a hotel

Former minister Mohamed Ziane was imprisoned in Morocco on Monday evening after the Rabat Court of Appeal upheld a three-year prison sentence in a case brought against him by the Ministry of the Interior. Ziane, 79, was known in recent years for his opposition views, and was sentenced originally on 23 February but was released on bail while his appeal was heard.

The case against the ex-minister is that he accused the intelligence service of "faking" an indecent video that was broadcast by a local news site. The Public Prosecution charged him with "contempt of public officials and justice", "insulting a constituted body", "defamation", and "adultery" or "sexual harassment".

His son and lawyer, Ali Reda Ziane, told AFP "He was not even legally notified [of his conviction] and never appeared in court. He was convicted for all possible and imaginable charges, it is an aberration the like of which I have never seen before."

Before his arrest, Mohamed Ziane, who is also a lawyer, told AFP that he had "never received a summons to appear before the Court of Appeal". He expressed his belief that he was being tried because of his political views.

READ: Morocco hands ex-minister 3-year prison term

"His appeal was held in a single hearing, without giving Barrister Ziane the opportunity to defend himself," said the Moroccan Committee for the Support of Prisoners of Conscience. "The court did not hear him or his defence."

At the end of 2020, Ziane condemned a defamatory campaign against him after a news website broadcast a video clip that was filmed inside a hotel room, showing him naked with one of his clients. He accused the head of the police and domestic intelligence, Abdelatif Hammouchi, of being responsible for "faking" the video, the broadcasting of which caused widespread uproar on social and local media at the time.

In bringing the case against Ziane, the Ministry of the Interior said in early 2021 that it had a "strong commitment to protecting its employees from attacks, insults and slander that may target them in the course of carrying out their duties."

According to Ziane's son, however, the downward spiral affecting his father started when he took a stand in favour of the Hirak, the social movement that arose in northern Morocco in 2016-17. He also defended Taoufik Bouachrine, an opposition media boss sentenced in 2018 to 15 years in prison for "sexual assaults" against eight women, charges he has always denied in what he denounced as a "political trial".

Mohamed Ziane was Minister of Human Rights between 1995 and 1996 and close to the circles of power. He was also the government's lawyer in the 1990s but has more recently been a critic of the Moroccan security agencies.

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