Moroccan king pardons journalist convicted in abortion case

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Demonstrators, including prominent activists and journalists, demonstrate with a placerd reading "Free Hajar Raissouni" in front of Parliament in Rabat, Morocco, Wednesday Oct. 2, 2019. Several dozens of Moroccan activists and journalists protested for the release of jailed journalist Haja Raissouni on Wednesday, warning that the one year prison term handed to her last Monday threatens condition of women and civil rights in the country. (AP Photo/Nadine Achoui-Lesage )
Demonstrators, including prominent activists and journalists, demonstrate in front of Parliament in Rabat, Morocco, Wednesday Oct. 2, 2019. Several dozens of Moroccan activists and journalists protested for the release of jailed journalist Haja Raissouni on Wednesday, warning that the one year prison term handed to her last Monday threatens condition of women and civil rights in the country. (AP Photo/Nadine Achoui-Lesage )

Morocco’s monarch has pardoned a journalist convicted of allegedly having had an abortion, which is illegal in the North African country along with pre-marital sex.

A Justice Ministry statement Wednesday said the pardon for Hajar Raissouni and others convicted in the case reflects King Mohammed VI’s “compassion and mercy.”

Raissouni, 28, who denies having undergone an abortion, was sentenced last month to a year in prison along with the Sudanese man she calls her husband under Islamic law. The doctor allegedly involved was handed a two-year term.

The statement said the king’s pardon derived from his wish “to preserve the future of the two fiances.”

The case attracted the ire of activists and sparked debate, with many seeing it as a blow to women’s rights.

According to a report by the Guttmacher Institute an estimated 93% of women of reproductive age in Africa live in countries with restrictive abortion laws. Even in countries where the law allows abortion under limited circumstances, it is likely that few women are able to obtain a safe, legal procedure.

Abortion is not permitted for any reason in 10 out of 54 African countries.

Four countries in Africa have relatively liberal abortion laws: Zambia permits abortion for health and socioeconomic reasons, whereas Cape Verde, South Africa and Tunisia permit abortion without restriction as to reason, with gestational limits.

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