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Morocco jails vlogger for two years over comments on minister

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A Moroccan court has sentenced a vlogger to two years in prison for defamation after he suggested links between a minister and a drug trafficking network, his lawyer said Thursday.

Mohamed Reda Taoujini was arrested last week in the southwestern city of Agadir after Justice Minister Abdellatif Ouahbi filed two complaints against him, said the lawyer, Redouane Arabi.

Taoujini, who has more than 490,000 subscribers on YouTube, was accused of defaming Ouahbi in two posts on the platform.

In the videos, he questioned whether the minister had been involved in a drug trafficking scandal that has become known in Morocco as the “Escobar of the Sahara” affair.

The case came to light after the arrest late last year of two elected officials from the minister’s Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM) as part of an investigation into the smuggling ring.

The Court of First Instance in Agadir found Taoujini guilty of “insulting a public official” and “defamation”, Arabi said, slamming the ruling as “harsh and unfair”.

Taoujini was sentenced on Wednesday evening to two years in prison and ordered to pay a fine of around $1,980, the lawyer added.

The Lakome2 news website said the justice minister had also filed a complaint against three journalists who made similar allegations.

In December, PAM officials Said Naciri, president of Casablanca’s regional council, and Abdennabi Bioui, the head of the regional council of Oriental in the east, had been detained over their alleged involvement in the drug trafficking network.

Naciri is also president of Wydad AC, the most successful football club in Morocco and one of Africa’s powerhouses.

The case is the first in the North African country in which such high-profile political figures have been implicated in a drug scandal.

The investigation has identified 25 people suspected of “possession, marketing and export of drugs”, as well as corruption, prosecutors say. Twenty of them have been detained.

The suspects are believed to be linked to Hadj Ahmed Ben Brahim, a Malian serving a 10-year sentence in Morocco for international drug trafficking.

Nicknamed the “Pablo Escobar of the Sahara”, Ben Brahim was arrested in 2019 in Casablanca after the record seizure of 40 tonnes of cannabis resin in 2015 in trucks belonging to him.

Escobar was a notorious Colombian drug lord who was killed in a 1993 shootout with police

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