In Morocco, the Rabat Court of Appeal increased the sentences of three men accused of repeatedly raping a young girl overnight from Thursday to Friday April 14, after a verdict at first instance which had outraged public opinion with its leniency. . One of the defendants was sentenced to 20 years in prison and the other two to 10 years each.
Sanae, a minor aged 11 at the time and now 12, "suffered repeated rape under threat" in a village near Rabat, which resulted in a pregnancy, according to NGOs from defense of women's rights. Sanae became the mother of a child aged one year and one month today.
"We are satisfied with the verdict which brought justice to the victim, that said, we did not understand why two defendants received only 10 years each," Abdelfattah Zahrach told AFP on leaving the court, adding that he is considering the appeal in cassation "after consultation with the family". On March 20, one of the men was sentenced to two years in prison, the other two to 18 months, sentences whose leniency shocked public opinion.
As in the first instance, the three men were prosecuted on appeal for "misappropriation of a minor" and "indecent assault on a minor with violence". The defendants, aged 25, 32 and 37, faced up to 30 years in prison, according to the Moroccan Penal Code. Their sentences were accompanied by damages of a total of 140,000 dirhams (more than 12,500 euros) while at first instance, they were ordered to pay a total of 50,000 dirhams (i.e. 4,500 euros).
Maximum penalty required
The verdict came after a single, well-attended marathon hearing, in which the prosecution sought the maximum sentence of 30 years against the trio. "If it was possible I would have demanded the death penalty," the king's prosecutor said. Morocco has de facto abolished the death penalty, having carried out no executions since 1993.
For his part, Sanae "reiterated his testimony" before the court, lawyer Me Mohamed Sebbar told Agence France-Presse (AFP). A minor witness close to one of the accused and having previously supported the girl's version retracted herself before the judge, according to the lawyers for the civil party. Both hearings were held behind closed doors following a request from the prosecution "in accordance with child protection provisions".
Faced with questions from the judge, the prosecution and the civil party, the three defendants denied in block. One of them, faced with the DNA test which proves that he is the biological father of Sanae's child, simply repeated: "I don't know". The civil party claimed financial support for the girl until she reached majority by the Ministry of Solidarity.
"We agree on the principle of the conviction but not on the sentences", claimed Me Sebbar in court. "The trial sentence punished the victim and not the defendants," he said. The defense found the girl's statements "contradictory" and pleaded "innocence" for the defendants.
Earlier in the afternoon, little Sanae, frail and mute, had entered the courthouse accompanied by her grandmother and her father. At the start of the hearing, the civil party requested that "rape" be added to the charges, a request denied by the judge.
The case deeply moved public opinion, which denounced a "lax" and "shocking" first judgment. A petition to this effect has collected more than 35,000 signatures. The excitement grew with the publication of the pronouncement of the judgment at first instance in which it appears that the defendants benefited from mitigating circumstances.
"Sanae is starting to smile again little by little but she remains shocked," Amina Khalid, secretary general of Insaf (National Institution for Solidarity with Women in Distress) who has accompanied the girl since the start of the crisis, told AFP. affair. The association notably helped the little girl to enter a second-chance school when she had never been to school. This tragedy has revived the debate on the protection of children against sexual violence in the kingdom and the need to reform the laws.