Morocco demands evidence of alleged spying on journalist

The Moroccan government assures that it will “go all the way” with the human rights organization if it does not prove the serious accusations.

Morocco demands evidence of alleged spying on journalist
Journalist and activist Omar Radi speaks to the media outside the courthouse in Casablanca, Morocco, on 12 March

RABAT, Morocco – The Moroccan government will “go all the way” in its dealings with Amnesty International (AI) if the organization does not provide credible evidence of its accusations that the executive spied on a local journalist’s phone through an Israeli program, an official Moroccan source told Efe. AI’s local director, Mohamed Sektaoui, was summoned by the authorities and has been asked to provide documents to corroborate his report as soon as possible.

The source has not clarified whether this means the government can close down AI’s office in Rabat, which is working under minimums after the Moroccan government and the international organization have been at loggerheads for six years over Rabat’s accusation of hostility to the Maghreb country.

Morocco has reiterated that it does not possess the Pegasus software, which can turn on the camera and microphone of the phone, as well as access the data.

It has also denied having any connection with the Israeli company. “The Moroccan services have no connection with the Israeli company NSO and Morocco does not have the Pegasus software. Everything Amnesty International has raised in this regard is wrong and unfounded,” a Moroccan intelligence officer told the independent Moroccan website Le360.

Three government ministers – Foreign Minister, Human Rights Minister and the spokesperson – appeared jointly in Rabat on Thursday to denounce that AI has launched “a defamation campaign” against Morocco, which has resulted in the publication of 72 reports critical of the Maghreb country in the past six years, nine of them this year.

“Morocco will take all necessary measures to defend its national security and to refute these fallacies before national and international public opinion,” the government’s spokesman, Said Amzazi, said Thursday at a press conference with Foreign Minister Naser Bourita and Human Rights Minister Mustafa Ramid.

Amzazi said that Prime Minister Saadedin Otmani had handed over a letter to Amnesty International’s Secretary-General in London on Thursday, calling on the organization to provide concrete evidence on the spying charge.

This letter follows another request for clarification issued last Friday, and although the ministers did not want to equate it with an ultimatum, a government source has assured Efe that for the Moroccan government it is “a matter of days” before Amnesty gives a satisfactory response or, otherwise, “we will go to the end”, he explained. At his hearing, Bourita accused Amnesty of having leaked his spying report to 17 international media without seeking a reaction from his government.

“This is not an assessment of the human rights situation; we are talking about events in which a journalist (referring to reporter Omar Radi) is allegedly being spied on by the authorities,” said Bourita, who has promised “political and legal answers” if AI does not respond to Thursday’s letter.

Bourita called Amnesty International’s actions “unprofessional” and explained that Morocco allows international organizations to work, but requires them to be credible and to produce their reports on the basis of clear procedures and evidence.

Bourita said he rejected the way in which the organization carries out its work in Morocco because it never interacts with the authorities. “Its sources are always anonymous and it uses media defamation in every report,” he said.

The Minister for Human Rights, Mustafa Ramid, insisted that his country was not in a position to “escalate” its confrontations with any international or Moroccan organisation, adding that his country would remain “faithful to its method of interacting positively” with the organisations.

Ramid said it was not the first time that AI had made a mistake with Morocco, noting that in 2014 the organization had framed the country, along with five other nations, in an international campaign on torture.

“We have a real problem with Amnesty International and hopefully this will be resolved,” concluded Ramid, who again called on the organization to respond to Morocco through “serious and clear” dialogue.

Hassan Juma

Written by Hassan Juma

Hassan Juma is an international reporter who graduated with a degree from The United States International University where he majored in Journalism and International Relations and he is currently working for African Stand as a senior reporter covering the Middle East, US, Asia, and Europe.

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