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Morocco: parliament reconsiders relations with EU counterpart

The Moroccan Parliament has decided to reevaluate its relations with the European Parliament following a joint emergency session of both chambers in Rabat

The Moroccan Parliament agreed yesterday to evaluate and reconsider its relations with the European Parliament in Brussels, Anadolu has reported. This was announced following an emergency joint session of both chambers in Rabat.

The European Parliament adopted a resolution on Thursday criticising the alleged limited freedom of the press and expression in Morocco, and calling on the authorities to "end the judicial prosecution of several journalists." When the resolution was put to a vote, 356 out of 430 members of the European Parliament voted in favour; 32 voted against; and 42 were absent.

In response, the Moroccan Parliament said that the European decision "undermined the foundations of trust and cooperation" between Rabat and Brussels. "We strongly condemn the hostile attempts to harm Morocco's interests and image and the current distinguished and long-standing relations between the country and the European Union."

The parliament in Rabat described the EU move as an "unacceptable violation" of its competencies and powers, and an "unacceptable assault" on Morocco's sovereignty.

"The situation of freedom of expression and the press in Morocco is an internal matter," the head of the parliamentary bloc of the opposition Justice and Development Party, Abdellah Bouanou, told Anadolu. He emphasised the rejection of any foreign decision that "blackmails" Morocco.

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Earlier on Monday, the opposition Socialist Party joined coalition government members the Istiqlal Party and the National Rally of Independents in announcing their rejection of the European criticism of the situation of freedom of expression in the Kingdom. They too denounced it as interference in Morocco's internal affairs.

The Supreme Council of the Judiciary in Morocco expressed its condemnation on Saturday of the European Parliament putting itself forward to put the Moroccan legal system in the dock. "The people whose names were [mentioned by the Europeans] have benefited from guarantees of a fair trial established by law, and the subject of their trial is not related to their journalistic activity or the exercise of their freedom of opinion and expression, which is guaranteed by the constitution and the law," the council insisted.

The European Parliament had called for the release of Moroccan journalists Omar Radi, Soulaimane Raissouni and Taoufik Bouachrine, and for ending legal action against them on "sexual" charges. It claimed that press freedom in Morocco has "deteriorated continuously over the past decade," and called on the Moroccan authorities to "respect freedom of expression".

Radi is serving six years in prison on charges of "rape" and "espionage"; Raissouni is serving five years and Bouachrine is serving 15 years on charges of "sexual crimes". Human rights activists and media professionals believe that they were charged because of their opinions and work as journalists.

READ: Morocco: Journalists slam EU criticism of freedom of press in country

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