Saturday 21 April 2018
(AFP (eng) 02/26/18)
A prominent Moroccan newspaper publisher and journalist arrested last week has been referred to the prosecution for alleged "sexual assault", his lawyer said on Monday. Taoufiq Bouachrine, known for his editorials criticising officials in the North African country and who had previous run-ins with the authorities, was arrested on Friday at his newspaper, Akhbar al-Yaoum. A colleague said around 20 plain-clothed policemen raided the newspaper and detained him. But defence attorney Mohamed Ziane dismissed the accusations against his client, suggesting his arrest was politically motivated. "His arrest was spectacular, and this proves it is not a sex case, otherwise he would have been summoned to confront his accusers," Ziane said. Initially the authorities declined to explain why Bouachrine had been...
(AFP (eng) 02/24/18)
Moroccan police on Friday arrested a newspaper publisher and prominent journalist, known for editorials critical of authorities in the North African country, a colleague said. Taoufiq Bouachrine, 49, was arrested during a police raid on his newspaper, Akhbar al-Yaoum, in Casablanca, Mounir Abou Al Maali told AFP. He said around 20 policemen in civilian clothes entered the offices of the newspaper and searched it. "They took pictures and confiscated the key," to the office, he said. Abou Al Maali said it was not immediately clear why Bouachrine was arrested. The Arabic-language newspaper also said on its website that Bouachrine...
(AFP (eng) 02/23/18)
The rubbish had been cleared away and spectators emerged from makeshift tents: it was time for kick-off in the daily football game at the Oulad Ziane migrant camp in Morocco's Casablanca. "We organise ourselves among the different nationalities," said Djabel Niang, 21, who left Senegal two years ago to pursue his dream of crossing the Mediterranean and playing for Real Madrid. "We play in teams of five or six in conditions that aren't really up to scratch, but we play anyway -- we play for pleasure, and to forget." The camp, near the central bus station in Morocco's coastal commercial capital, is home to migrants from sub-Saharan Africa who are trying to reach Europe or have been forced back. The...
(AFP (eng) 02/19/18)
About 224 million people are suffering from malnutrition across Africa as climate change and conflicts heighten food insecurity across the continent, a top UN food agency official said Monday. The official, speaking at a conference on Africa organised by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said the situation was a "cause of concern" as the continent's population was expected to reach 1.7 billion by 2030. "Under-nourishment appears to have increased from about 21 percent to nearly 23 percent between 2015 and 2016," Bukar Tijani, FAO's assistant director general for Africa, said at the regional conference that opened on Monday in Khartoum. "Over the same period, the number of under-nourished rose from 200 million to 224 million in Africa. This...
(AFP (eng) 02/17/18)
Morocco has acquitted a former Guantanamo Bay detainee, held without charge by the US military for over 13 years, of "undermining state security", his lawyer said Friday. Yunis Chekkouri was arrested by Pakistani forces in late December 2001 with a group of several dozen alleged fighters who had fled the Tora Bora cave complex in eastern Afghanistan, a stronghold of the Taliban and its Al-Qaeda allies. The following year he was flown to the Guantanamo Bay military prison, where he was locked up for over 13 years but never charged. In September 2015, Chekkouri was released and sent back home...
(AFP (eng) 02/15/18)
The Moroccan parliament on Wednesday, after months of heated debate, adopted a law first drafted five years ago to combat violence against women. "Thank God!" Hassima Hakkaoui, the minister of family affairs, women and solidarity, wrote on her Facebook page, after the law first drafted in 2013 was ratified by a vote of 112 for, 55 against and one abstention. Her department said the law, for the first time in Morocco, criminalises "acts considered forms of harassment, aggression, sexual exploitation or ill treatment" of women. Commentators on social media noted that the law finally passed on Saint Valentine's Day.
(AFP (eng) 02/15/18)
A Moroccan man was arrested in Paris Wednesday on suspicion of helping a jihadist who staged an attack on a high-speed train in 2015, a source close to the inquiry told AFP. The source said the 36-year-old was suspected of providing "logistical help" to Ayoub El Khazzani who opened fire with an AK-47 on a Paris-bound train from Amsterdam carrying more than 500 passengers. Two people were wounded before the gunman was overpowered by three Americans on holiday in Europe, two of them off-duty servicemen. Their quick action prevented what could have been a bloodbath. The suspect, who lives in Spain, was arrested at a bus station in Paris as part of a joint French French-Spanish investigation, with a statement...
(AFP (eng) 02/14/18)
Couscous may be the signature dish of North Africa, but steaming plates of the stew-topped semolina are also served up in West Africa and around the Mediterranean. Since 1998 the Italian island of Sicily has been the unlikely host of the couscous-making world championship known as Cous Cous Fest, which bills itself as a "festival of cultural integration". Each September chefs convene on Sicily, whose Mediterranean location opposite Tunisia has made it a cultural crossroads throughout history, battling to be crowned couscous king or queen. Palestinian chefs George Suheil Srour and Elias Bassous won the competition last year, with a couscous topped with grilled sea bream...
(AFP (eng) 02/12/18)
Morocco recorded a bumper year for tourist arrivals in 2017, breaking through the 11-million barrier for the first time, the tourism ministry announced Monday. Visitor arrivals numbered some 11.4 million, a 10-percent increase over 2016, with tourists from "emerging markets" such as China and Brazil joining those from France, Spain and Germany. Revenues from the sector jumped to 69.7 billion dirhams ($7.55 billion, 6.16 billion euros) in 2017, up from 64.2 billion dirhams the previous year. Fez, Tangiers and Marrakesh, along with Ouarzazate on the edge of the Sahara desert, recorded the strongest growth in tourist numbers, the ministry said. After several years of stagnation, the tourism industry has turned around, partly thanks to new budget air links with Europe...
(AFP (eng) 02/12/18)
Moroccan authorities said Sunday they had seized nearly 541 kilos (1,200 pounds) of cocaine in a container from Latin America which arrived in Casablanca. Six people including a Brazilian suspected of being the "mastermind of a criminal network" were arrested, according to the Central Bureau of Judicial Investigation (BCIJ). It also seized five vehicles and "large sums of money" in Moroccan dirhams and other currencies. In a statement, the BCIJ said it was investigating a "dangerous" criminal network linked to Latin American cartels taking advantage of "the kingdom's strategic position as a transit point to European territory". Cocaine traffickers have developed new routes to Europe over the past decade. The drug is mostly sent from Central America via West African...
(AFP (eng) 02/08/18)
The African Union's chairman dismissed during a visit to Beijing on Thursday a French newspaper report alleging that China had spied on the continental body as "lies" intended to derail cooperation. The report published by Le Monde in January claimed technicians at the AU's Chinese-built headquarters in the Ethiopian capital discovered last year that the contents of their computers had been regularly copied to servers in Shanghai since 2012, citing unnamed AU sources. "I don't see it is in the interest of China to spy," AU commission chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat said during a visit to Beijing, where he met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to discuss deepening cooperation on a variety of issues, as well as opening a...
(AFP (eng) 02/07/18)
Morocco's prime minister on Wednesday swigged a glass of water from a reservoir supplying some seven million people in a bid to dispel fears over pollution. Saad-Eddine El Othmani staged the publicity stunt in front of flashing cameras after environmental groups said it was being tainted by waste from two nearby prisons. "This water is drinkable," he told journalists as he sipped a glass from the Sidi Mohamed Benabdallah reservoir on the coast between capital Rabat and Casablanca. "You are in good hands," the premier said. The authorities in the North African kingdom have scrambled to defuse reports over the pollution that have caused consternation among locals. The national water authorities have insisted there is "no danger to the health...
(AFP (eng) 02/06/18)
Human Rights Watch called on Morocco Tuesday to urgently reexamine the sentencing of an activist to five years in prison based on a confession that it said may have been coerced. El Mortada Iamrachen, a 31-year-old member of a protest movement in Morocco's neglected northern Rif region, was convicted in November of "defending terrorism" and incitement. A court is expected to hear his appeal on Wednesday. New York-based HRW said Iamrachen's conviction was based on a "possibly coerced confession". "Once again, a Moroccan activist is thrown in prison after his contested confession is used to convict him," said the group's Middle East and North Africa director Sarah Leah Whitson. "This may well not be a terrorism case at all, but...
(AFP (eng) 02/06/18)
The Polisario Front which seeks independence for Western Sahara said Monday it is ready for direct negotiations with Morocco on the future of the disputed territory. Mohamed Salem Ould Salek, foreign minister of the self-declared Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic which controls a thin strip of the territory, said a Polisario delegation had met in Berlin on January 25 with the UN envoy on Western Sahara, Horst Koehler. "This is a new phase of discussions aimed at preparing for a new phase of direct negotiations," he told a news conference in Algiers, which supports the Polisario. The Polisario is "ready for direct negotiations with the Kingdom of Morocco to make peace", Ould Salek said. Morocco has also said it would meet...
(AFP (eng) 02/05/18)
Moroccan rescue services have recovered the bodies of 16 migrants off the coast of Spain's enclave of Melilla, Moroccan and Spanish officials said Sunday. Three women were among the dead taken to a morgue in the Moroccan city of Nador, a medical official there told AFP. All were sub-Saharan Africans apart from one Moroccan, the official said. A spokeswoman for Melilla's authorities earlier said "about 20" bodies had been recovered in Moroccan territorial waters. The bodies of the migrants were spotted Saturday by a Spanish ship, which alerted the rescue services of both countries, she said.
(AFP (eng) 02/05/18)
A Moroccan court sentenced to jail a journalist for his coverage of unrest in the country's north, media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said, calling for his release. Abdelkabir al-Horr was convicted on charges of backing "terrorism, inciting others to hold a banned protest in the northern Rif region and insulting" authorities, RSF said in its statement on Friday. It said Horr, founder of the Rassdmaroc news website, was sentenced to four years in jail on Thursday. RSF expressed "deep concern" over the verdict and called for the journalist's "immediate release". It quoted the journalist's lawyer as saying authorities had charged him over his coverage of a wave of protests that shook the neglected Rif region for months last year...
(AFP (eng) 02/05/18)
Ayoub el Kaabi scored his ninth goal of the 2018 African Nations Championship (CHAN) as Morocco became the first hosts to triumph by thrashing 10-man Nigeria 4-0 Sunday in a Casablanca downpour. With Nigeria in disarray and the final long over as a contest, the previously little known striker completed his record-extending goal haul by firing into the net from close range. Zakaria Hadraf put the home team ahead at Stade Mohammed V on the stroke of half-time and added the match-clinching third goal midway through the second half. In between the first goals of the tournament for Hadraf, fellow midfielder Mohamed el Karti netted soon after Nigerian attacker Eneji Moses was red-carded following a second caution. Before the biennial...
(AFP (eng) 02/05/18)
Israel began warning thousands of African migrants Sunday that they must leave by the end of March, officials said, under a plan that could see them jailed if they refuse. On January 3, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced implementation of a plan to deport about 38,000 migrants who had entered the country illegally, mainly Eritreans and Sudanese. The controversial plan gives them until the end of next month to leave voluntarily or face jail and eventual expulsion. Immigration authority spokeswoman Sabine Haddad told AFP that officials began issuing migrants letters on Sunday advising them that they had 60 days in which to leave the country voluntarily. For now, the notices are being given only to men without families, officials said...
(AFP (eng) 02/03/18)
Thousands of people staged a protest Friday in an impoverished Moroccan city over the latest fatality in the region's "mines of death", the third such victim since December, witnesses said. The protest was staged outside the morgue of the hospital in the northeastern town of Jerada, where security forces were deployed to keep order in the wake of Thursday's deadly accident. Shops stayed shuttered as the crowd accompanied the body of the latest "martyr" of the area's abandoned coal pits, Abderrahman Zakaria, 32, to the cemetery for his funeral. The government said a ministerial delegation would soon visit the region to look into the grievances of local residents. Mass protests against economic marginalisation broke out in the city in December...
(AFP (eng) 02/03/18)
Megastar Rihanna vowed she would "never stop fighting" to get millions of children back in school on Friday as French President Emmanuel Macron promised a major boost in foreign aid for education in developing nations. Macron co-hosted a conference in Dakar organised by the Global Partnership for Education with Senegalese President Macky Sall, while Rihanna attended as the organisation's global ambassador. "We have made tremendous progress today but of course our work is never done, we have a long way to go, and this is a fight we are never going to stop fighting, until every boy and every girl has access to education," she told the crowd. At ease with the African heads of state gathered onstage, Rihanna put...

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