October 24, 2011 / 8:39 PM / 6 years ago

UPDATE 1-Moroccan court upholds editor Nini's sentence

* Appeal court upholds editor’s 12-month jail sentence

* A household name, Nini was charged for his writings

* Lawyer: Verdict shows unspoken red lines remain for press (Adds lawyer’s comments)

RABAT, Oct 24 (Reuters) - A Moroccan appeal court on Monday upheld a newspaper editor’s one-year jail sentence for criticising the security service’s counter-terrorism campaign and what he said were unfair trials of Islamists.

Rachid Nini, who partly owns the Almassae newspaper, was sentenced in June for crimes that included “discrediting a court, trying to influence the judiciary and publishing information about untrue criminal offences”.

The court repeatedly denied him bail after his arrest on April 28.

The official MAP news agency said the Casablanca appeal court upheld the June ruling, which also includes a small fine.

Nini, 40, has become a household name in a country where newspaper sales are among the lowest in the region by writing about alleged widespread corruption in government circles.

Communication Minister Khalid Naciri, whose department supervises and regulates media affairs, declined to comment. “I can’t comment a judiciary ruling,” he said.

The defence has criticised the fact that Nini was tried on criminal charges rather than under the country’s media law.

Nini’s lawyer Khalid Soufiani said the verdict “meant a death sentence for the country’s press law and that journalists will continue to face crimninal charges for their writings.”

“This was a political trial, pure and simple. It shows that the judiciary is far from being independent and that there continue to be unspoken and invisible red lines for reporters in Morocco,” Soufiani told Reuters.

Reporters Without Borders called the first ruling in June a “precedent (that) opens the way to many abuses and to the withdrawal of the press law as an effective legal tool. We urge the Moroccan courts to reverse this decision”.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists has said the ruling was a “politicized verdict ... the latest instance of the Moroccan government settling scores with critical journalists through a judiciary that is subservient to the executive branch”.

“Nini is yet another example of how the Moroccan judiciary is utilised to curb press freedom,” CPJ has said.

Amnesty International is appealing for Nini’s release and has said it “believes he is being targeted for his peaceful criticism of the Moroccan authorities, and considers him a prisoner of conscience”. (Reporting by Souhail Karam; Editing by Tim Pearce)

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