Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Morocco: Police Arrest Editor of "El Pais," Attacks on His Highness, Incitation to Engage in Terror

According to The Associated Press, Moroccan authorities arrested the editor of a local news website on Tuesday (September 17) and said it would file a lawsuit against the Spanish daily, El Pais, after both posted a video by North Africa's al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) attacking the Kingdom of Morocco.

The 41-minute video, posted by AQIM last week, was a rare attack on Morocco and accused King Mohammed VI of corruption and despotism, and for being part of the war on terror that President George W. Bush launched. The video also featured the burning of a photo of His Highness.

"Following the diffusion by the electronic newspaper, Lakome, of a video attributed to AQIM which contained a clear call and incitation to commit acts of terrorism in Morocco, the prosecutor general has ordered police to arrest the owner of the newspaper for investigation," said the prosecutor's statement carried by the state news agency.

The Justice Ministry then followed up with a statement of its own later in the day saying that since El Pais website carried the video in the original Arabic, "it shows it was addressed to Arabic speakers, particularly Moroccans, and so is an incitement to perpetrate acts of terrorism in Morocco." The statement added that it would file suit against the paper in a Spanish court.

COMMENT: In Morocco, Ali Anouzla's website, http://www.lakome.com, is known for its trenchant criticism of the government similar to the secular February 20 movement that protested for greater democracy in 2011 during the Arab Spring.

The video was issued AQIM's al-Andalus media arm on Thursday (September 12) and Lakome's Arabic and French websites wrote about it over the weekend. The video was also front-page news in Moroccan newspapers on Monday (September 16).

Ahmed Bensiddik, a journalist for LAKOME, confirmed Anouzla's detention in Rabat following the prosecutor's orders.

Morocco has rarely featured al-Qaeda's propaganda videos and the group has little organized presence in the North African kingdom, which is protected by heavily defended borders and a vigilant internal security force.

Terrorism in Morocco, including a blast at a tourist site in Marrakech in 2011, and bombs in Casablanca in 2003, have largely been conducted by small independent cells inspired by al-Qaeda, rather than actively controlled by the terror network.

The video echoes many of the criticisms by pro-democracy groups of the kingdom, including corruption and police brutality, but then goes on to fault Morocco for holding music festivals featuring openly gay performers such as Elton John in 2010.

"Rise up young people to make your religion and the Quran victorious and save your nation because happiness is in the immigration to God and not on the boats of death," said Abdelmalek Droukdel, the leader of AQIM, in an audio recording which wrapped up the video.