Al-Herd, editor of the Oujda-based weekly newspaper Al-Sharq, was detained on June 12 along with two other journalists–Al-Sharq Editor Abdel Majid Ben Taher and Mustapha Qashnini, editor of the Oujda-based weekly Al-Hayat Al-Maghribiya–under Morocco’s new antiterrorism law and later charged with “extolling the actions that comprise terrorism.” Ben Taher and Qashnini were released in July, but al-Herd remained in jail at year’s end.
The charges against all three men stemmed from an article published in the May 5-20 edition of the weekly Al-Hayat Al-Maghribiya by an Islamist activist that was reprinted on June 5 in Al-Sharq. In the article, the author discussed the history of the Islamist movement in Morocco and its alleged relationship with the country’s intelligence services. The article criticized the Moroccan intelligence services for doing the “dirty work” of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.
On August 4, al-Herd, Ben Taher, and Qashnini were convicted. Al-Herd was sentenced to three years in prison, while Ben Taher and Qashnini were each sentenced to a year in prison. Ben Taher and Qashnini remained free pending appeal, while al-Herd began serving his sentence immediately. The court also suspended both weeklies for three months.
Al-Herd was freed in early January 2004 after King Mohammed VI pardoned him and several dozen other prisoners. The cases against Ben Taher and Qashnini were also dropped under the pardon.