September 17, 2008

Abbas El Fassi
Le Premier Ministre
Palais Royal, Touarga
Rabat, Morocco
Fax: +212 037 768656

M. Abdelwahad Radi
Le Ministre de la Justice
Place El Mamoumia
Rabat, Morocco

Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,300 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to protest the sentence imposed on Internet writer Mohammed Erraji.

According to our information, Mohammed Erraji was arrested on September 4, 2008 for an article published on the web site Hespress entitled “King encourages dependency on handouts” that criticized Mohammed VI’s custom of granting favors. He argued in the article that the north African kingdom had been destroyed by the practice of handing out charity or gifts such as taxi licenses to a lucky few, which encouraged people to rely on handouts. Mr. Erraji was reportedly tried in the southern city of Agadir without the presence of a defense lawyer, at a trial which did not conform to international standards. He was convicted on September 8, 2008 of “disrespect for the king” under article 41 of the Moroccan press law, and sentenced to two years in prison and fine of 5,000 dirhams. He was released, pending appeal, on September 10, 2008. The appeal hearing for Mr. Erraji was to be held on September 16, 2008. The outcome is not yet known.

PEN American Center welcomes the release, pending appeal, of Mohammed Erraji, but believes his conviction to be in violation of his right to freedom of expression, as protected under Article 19 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, to which Morocco is a party. We therefore respectfully call for the charges to be dropped and the sentence to be overturned.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.


Hannah Pakula
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC: H. E. Mr. Aziz Mekouar
Ambassador of His Majesty the King of Morocco to the United States of America

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