Moroccan cartoonist detained over mosque drawing

AP, Wednesday 25 Jul 2012

A Moroccan editorial cartoonist was questionned by police after publishing a caricature on his website that they said insulted Islam, the sixth journalist detained in the country in a week

The prominent cartoonist, Khalid Gueddar, said he was interrogated for six hours on Monday in Casablanca. Gueddar was arrested in 2009 along with another journalist after publishing a caricature of the Moroccan king's cousin. Caricatures of Islam or the royal family are illegal in Morocco. He ultimately received a suspended sentence and a fine of €300,000 ($362,500).

The latest cartoon, which he said he drew in 2011 in response to the arrest that year of an imam accused of soliciting a prostitute in a mosque in Fez, shows someone tossing lingerie from a minaret. He said he published it again to illustrate a similar situation. "The interrogation focused on what I think of Islam, on my drawings and on my website," Gueddar said.

His lawyer said if charged and convicted, Gueddar could face a harsh sentence and he compared the questioning to an inquisition on religion. The justice minister, Mustapha Ramid, said he would not intervene in what he described as a normal judicial process. Last week, five other Moroccan journalists were interrogated for various reasons.

After the Arab Spring protests, Morocco adopted a new constitution that gave more power to the president and granted a degree of freedom of expression, but some punishments for journalists remained on the books. Pro-democracy demonstrators have remained active in this North African kingdom, and freedom of speech issues have been on the rise.

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