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Morocco prosecutes Spanish journalist over Pegasus claim as other cases start in Europe

January 17, 2023 at 1:14 pm

former correspondent of El Pais newspaper, Ignacio Cembrero [@icembrero/Twitter]

Morocco is prosecuting a Spanish journalist over allegations that the country has used the Israeli-produced Pegasus spy programme, Raialyoum has reported. Other legal cases involving the kingdom are also pending elsewhere in Europe.

A court in Madrid is considering the case filed by the Moroccan government against a former correspondent of El Pais newspaper, Ignacio Cembrero. The Moroccan government is demanding that the court should oblige Cembrero to prove his allegation or apologise with appropriate penalties, albeit not imprisonment. The judgement is expected to be made before the end of January.

Meanwhile, the trial of two French journalists, Eric Laurent and Catherine Graciet, has started in Paris on charges of blackmailing the King of Morocco, Mohammed VI. The journalists were arrested by the French police in 2015 in a trap set up after an agreement with the Public Prosecutor.

The two journalists planned to publish a book about the investments of the monarch and his friends. The Moroccans allege that the journalists asked the royal palace to pay two million euros in exchange for not publishing the book. In any event, The Predator King was published in 2012.

READ: Morocco files lawsuit against Spain journalist who reported use of Pegasus spyware

In Brussels today, the European Parliament will vote on a proposal to condemn Morocco for assaulting journalists and imprisoning them on charges of a sexual nature, as happened with Soulaimane Raissouni, Taoufik Bouachrine and Omar Radi. The condemnation focuses a lot on Radi’s case. He was arrested and sentenced to five years in prison for rape and spying on behalf of foreign powers.

Neither Morocco’s Foreign Ministry nor the kingdom’s embassy to the EU in Brussels has issued a comment on the case. However, the head of the EU-Morocco Joint Parliamentary Committee, former minister Lahcen Haddad, said that the European Parliament is “interfering” in the work of the Moroccan judiciary by taking such a vote, which comes a month after the “Moroccogate” scandal, in which Moroccan intelligence services are accused of bribing some members of the European Parliament to block condemnation of human rights in the North African country and the Western Sahara. Morocco’s friends in Europe are reluctant to defend the kingdom due to the serious nature of the charge.

Investigations are also ongoing in Europe over allegations that bribery was involved in the allocation of the 2022 FIFA World Cup to Qatar.