Trial opens of Moroccan journalist accused of sexual assault
The trial of a Moroccan journalist accused of sexual assault began on Thursday, with the opening hearing dominated by heated debate over the absence of his accusers.
Eight plaintiffs accuse Taoufiq Bouachrine of charges including human trafficking, sexual violence, abuse of power for sexual purposes, rape and attempted rape, according to judicial authorities.
The hearing, held in a packed courtroom of the criminal division of Casablanca's appeals court, was deadlocked over the absence of Bouachrine's alleged victims.
Lawyers for the 49-year-old publisher of independent Arabic-language daily Akhbar Al-Yaum condemned the proceedings as "political and unfair", and called on his accusers to give evidence before the court.
The prosecution stressed the importance of "ensuring the protection" of the plaintiffs, saying they had "received threats".
They sought a postponement and the judge obliged, adjourning proceedings until March 15.
The February 23 arrest of the outspoken journalist and publisher, known for his editorials critical of the authorities, has made frontpage news in Morocco.
Rape trials are rare in Morocco, as victims fear social repercussions in a society that remains largely conservative.
The kingdom prohibits extramarital sexual relations.