Mohamed Erraji, a blogger from Agadir, was arrested this past Friday for an article he published on the Moroccan e-zine Hespress.com. News of his arrest was reported by Hespress and echoed by a number of fellow bloggers, but has yet to be corroborated. Mohamed’s article (translated to English by Amira Al Hussaini), written in Arabic and titled “The King Indulges His Subjects’ dependency,” dealt with the concept of what Moroccans colloquially call “GRIMA”, from the French word “agrément” meaning “an administrative authorization.” Giving ”administrative authorizations” has been a long standing royal tradition in Morocco. Needless to say, such authorizations allow the beneficiary to bypass all set administrative procedures; they strip all laws and regulations designed to regulate such procedures of their integrity. But the concept is so ingrained in the Moroccan psyche that you often here Moroccans from all walks of life pray: “May Allah give us a “GRIMA” from Sidna.” So much so that when the king visits, most of his subjects waiting to greet him become undignified beggars hoping for a “GRIMA.”
The Moroccan judiciary will never concede that Erraji was arrested for his views on the concept of the “GRIMA.” After all, how could anybody be chastised for his/her views in a country the government is telling us is democratic and in which freedom of speech is guaranteed. But after reading Erraji’s article, I could see how he touches two rather sensitive nerves in the Moroccan judiciary and political spheres. Firstly, Erraji is being detained for calumnious statements against the person of the king (commonly known as “biting the hand that feeds you”), an offense punishable under article 41 of the Press Law. Secondly, his comparison of the Moroccan king to the Algerian president Boutaflika and his urging that the Moroccan government should heed to Boutaflika’s advice on the subject and follow his suit is the kind of opposition the Moroccan government equates with treason, especially in these politically turbulent times when the Moroccan/Algerian relations are less than cordial.
It would not be excessively imaginative to think that Erraji is currently not being investigated by the judiciary police, but by elements of the counterintelligence bureau trying to determine his alleged connection to the Algerian intelligence apparatus.
It would be ironic of course if Erraji, after being politically sentenced by a puppet judge, is granted a royal pardon.
UPDATE: In an expedited trial today in Agadir, Erraji was sentenced to two years imprisonment and 5000 DH ($627.00) fine for libel on the person of the King.
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Ahmed T. B. Copyright © 2008