Hamid al-Mahdaoui

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

Moroccan journalist Hamid al-Mahdaoui is serving a three-year prison sentence after being convicted in 2018 as part of a mass trial of people accused of being part of the anti-corruption group Al-Hirak al-Shaaby, or the Popular Movement. 

Police arrested al-Mahdaoui, an editor and reporter for the news website Badil, on July 20, 2017, as he traveled to the Rif area of northern Morocco to cover protests organized by the movement over the death of a fishmonger in the town of Rif, according to who Omar Benaddi, one of the journalist’s colleagues, Human Rights Watch, and news reports. The fishmonger was killed by a garbage truck as he tried to retrieve fish that the police had confiscated from him, according to news reports.

Following a December 2016 court order, police began tapping al-Mahdaoui’s phone, along with the phones of 30 other individuals, as a part of a court investigation into individuals who were suspected to have links with Al-Hirak al-Shaaby, according to news reports.

Authorities used information obtained in one of al-Mahdoui’s telephone interviews with an exiled activist to charge the journalist, according to news reports. During al-Mahdoui’s interview with the activist, which the police had recorded, the interviewee said he would send weapons to the Al-Hirak al-Shaaby movement.

When asked to explain why he did not report this conversation to authorities, al-Mahdoui said that he “did not take the threats seriously,” according to news reports that cite al-Mahdaoui’s testimony during a court hearing on August 2, 2017.

On June 28, 2018, the Casablanca Court of Appeals sentenced Hamid al-Mahdaoui to three years in prison and a fine of 3,000 dirhams (US$315) for “failure to denounce a crime threatening national security,” according to news reports.

According to a November 13, 2018, report in Morocco World News, a Casablanca court of appeals dismissed al-Mahdaoui from his first appeal hearing on November 12 following a heated dispute between the journalist and the attorney-general. 

On April 5, 2019, the Casablanca Court of Appeals upheld the 2018 conviction and three-year sentence, according to Al-Jazeera and Human Rights Watch

The journalist’s lawyer, Lahbib Hajji, told CPJ via messaging app on October 9, 2019, that no further court sessions were scheduled. 

In a separate case heard a few days after his arrest, the Hoceima Primary Court sentenced al-Mahdaoui on July 25, 2017 to three months in prison and a fine of 20,000 Moroccan dirhams (US$2,000) for "committing misdemeanors through speeches and shouting in public places," according to news reports. The court had accused al-Mahdaoui of giving a speech that "incite[d] participation in a banned protest," according to news reports

Al-Mahdaoui appealed, and on September 12, 2017, the Hoceima appeals court extended his three-month prison sentence to a year in prison, according to news reports.

In April 2019, the journalist was moved to the maximum security prison Tifelt 2, approximately 50 km (30 miles) from Rabat, according to news reports. 

In a September 20 Facebook post, the journalist’s wife said that he had started a hunger strike to protest mistreatment. She said that prison authorities did not provide nutritious food and that her husband was denied medicine and access to a doctor. She did not provide detail about his medical needs. Prison authorities disputed her account and said that al-Mahdaoui was taking his meals and was allowed visits, according to news reports

As of late 2019, Morocco’s Embassy to the United States and Casablanca’s Secretary General had not responded to CPJ’s requests for comment over email.