Morocco arrests dissident journalist on rape and spy charges

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FILE PHOTO: Journalist and activist Omar Radi waits outside court in Casablanca

RABAT (Reuters) - Moroccan police on Wednesday arrested a dissident journalist and charged him with rape and helping foreign spies, a prosecutor said, in a case worrying rights groups.

Omar Radi, a business journalist and critic of Morocco's human rights record, was also accused of receiving funds from abroad to undermine Morocco's security, the Casablanca prosecutor's office said in a statement.

Radi, 33, denies all the charges, his lawyer Miloud Kandil told Reuters, adding that a first hearing would be on Sept. 22.

His arrest follows 10 summons for a police investigation over suspicions of receiving funds linked to foreign intelligence which he denied.The investigation came after rights group Amnesty International accused Morocco of using Israeli-made spyware to snoop on his phone. Moroccan officials deny that and have demanded Amnesty turn over proof.

Radi had already been given a four-month suspended prison sentence in March, on charges of insulting a judge, for Twitter comments criticising jail terms for people in 2017 protests.

Rights groups say Morocco increasingly uses detention to target dissent. Courts have sentenced a dozen individuals to terms of up to four years on charges from insulting institutions or public servants to inciting protests, a committee of rights activists said in January.

Morocco mostly sidestepped the turmoil of the 2011 Arab uprisings, responding to protests with reforms to cede some of King Mohammed VI's powers to an elected government, though he remains the ultimate authority.

(Reporting by Ahmed Eljechtimi; Editing by Angus McDowall and Andrew Cawthorne)

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