How corruption in human rights NGOs and Moroccan politics tainted the Omar Radi case

Explosive new details which have emerged following the most recent twists and turns in the Omar Radi case, have put the increasingly complicated story in a new light. These shocking new facts reveal a dark back story of compromised human rights NGOs, political corruption and manipulation of the ruling Moroccan party PJD by foreign interests, and a self-serving Western media which sacrificed women’s rights on the altar of sensationalism.

Omar Radi, a leftist investigative journalist, ended up in the center of a controversy initially as a result of his own efforts, when, with the assistance of Amnesty International, he claimed that the Moroccan authorities have been surveilling him and infringing on his press activities with the use of an Israeli software called Pegasus, developed by a well known cybersecurity firm, the NSO Group.

As the saga unfolded, and the Moroccan authorities demanded additional evidence following the publication of a recent Amnesty report with these accusations, the NGO failed to satisfy the burden of proof. Eventually, the plot line of Amnesty’s five year campaign against NSO took on a life of its own in Israeli courts and other countries, whereas Amnesty’s history of attacks against Morocco, going back decades, converged with the recent events of the Omar Radi subplot.

While Amnesty was launching its media campaigns against Morocco and NSO, and filing lawsuits in Israel to deprive NSO of its export license, Omar Radi’s legal problems accumulated in Morocco. After Hafsa Boutafar, Omar Radi’s colleague at Le Desk, filed a rape complaint, Radi was arrested and also charged with accepting funding from a foreign agent. Quite simply, Radi appears to have been working as a spy for the Dutch intelligence, which has had a long history of interest in politicizing the controversies concerning the Rif region in Morocco, which was also the focus of Radi’s investigations. Dutch politicians in the past have been accused of deliberately stoking tensions in the restive region, which has become the focus of recent investments by the King after years of failed economic policies by the government and efforts at religious radicalization by outside parties.

According to the released information, Radi would exchange sensitive security information in exchange for generous financial compensation. Other sources claim Radi’s alleged handler is in fact an MI6 intelligence offer supposedly uncovered by Edward Snowden in 2013. Whatever the case may be, Radi would presumably obtain the information he shared with this handler through his work as a journalist, perhaps conversing with local Rif sources or Moroccan government officials under false pretenses.

While the spy mystery is yet to be fully unraveled, more information has been revealed by Radi’s alleged rape victim about the separate incident in which he is being charged. Ms. Boutafar chose to come forward in the media and explained that she was initially frightened of being embroiled in a scandal and of facing intrusion into her private life in a conservative society, but after Radi told the Moroccan press that they shared in a consensual sexual relationship despite the fact that Ms. Boutafar is engaged to another man, she felt compelled to push back against what she described as a false statement by Radi.

Ms. Boutafar’s concerns are not unfounded.

A feminist lawyer specializing inhuman rights and women’s issue, Ms. Meriem Jamal Idrissi, a practicing member of the bar in Casablanca, in an exclusive interview for this article describe the situation as follows (translated from French): ” Indeed Omar Radi today is facing an investigation by the judiciary for rape and espionage. Both are crimes punishable by criminal law. As a journalist, he must be a model in matters of professional ethics but if these allegations are true, he has offended his country and also human rights. Regarding rape, it should be noted that the victim is a journalist who also has the rights to maintain her dignity and reputation. So women activists must react forcefully to protect the dignity of journalists who are victims of sexual harassment or rape. Morocco is a conservative country This is why we find difficulties in the application of the law when it comes to women victims of sexual exploitation. The mentality here is to refuse to defend this type of victims and their universal rights.”

However, it is not merely the society as a whole which may be failing Ms. Boutafar and others. In fact, the most shocking revelation which has come out from her follow-up exclusive interview with the author for this article, it is that the human rights organizations that are responsible for giving cover to sex offenders and disregarding the troubled histories of people like Omar Radi. They embrace narratives by self-proclaimed dissidents without doing an iota of due diligence or fact checking while in pursuit of “clients” who could best represent the political agendas and missions driving these NGOS and whose dramatic cases could boost the profiles of the NGO, as well as their fundraising efforts.

Boutafar’s interview reveals how unscrupulous activists recruiting clients with a checkered history may end up harming the victims twice over. This happens when the activists fail to balance the political interest in a case with the ethical consideration of adopting claims which may be self-serving or exaggerated.

Hafsa Boutafar explained that she had worked at Le Desk, in a capacity of a PR desk representative, for approximately 17 months before Omar Radi joined the publication. His friend and colleague Imad Stitou who was present during the rape likewise joined the outlet after she did. Her relationship with Radi was never anything more than professional, underscored Boutafar. He was only a colleague, and all their interactions and meetings were professional and exclusive to the institution where both worked. They had a total of four such interactions altogether.

According to Boutafar, she supported Omar Radi after he was accused of accepting funding from a foreign agent; however that support was not personal, but rather that of a female colleague working in the same institution and due to the fact that they had had an opportunity to interact briefly as professionals . Their professional relationship had been relatively new, and they never connected outside the work context. Hafsa Boutafar explained that she was not involved in the political issues concerning corruption and Rif which had drawn Radi’s interests and eventually landed him in hot waters. Her specialty was in social issues, communications and public relations. Therefore even her support for his case was not based in any special knowledge or joint involvement in the causes, but rather was a result of professional courtesy considerations.

Indeed, her entire understanding of his legal issues was based entirely on Radi’s own words, after he transferred to the new job recently and informed his colleagues about legal troubles and the police investigation which followed him. Hafsa Boutafar had good reason to keep distance from Radi. According to her, everyone in their environment and social circles knew that Omar had personal emotional problems. The spy allegations were also widely known to the public. In addition, he has had a long history and reputation of being known to drink to the point of inebriation, by choice, and for which he was solely responsible, explained Boutafar.

He was drunk the night of the rape incident, and had previously been arrested for public intoxication and an assault against a journalist working for another Moroccan media organization while in front of a Casablanca pub.

Moreover, Radi had a previous history of allegations of rape and assault. Interestingly enough, the journalist assaulted by Radi just happened to be working for a publication which had revealed previous sexual assault allegations against Radi. As it also happens to be, Imad Stitou, who was present on the night of Boutafar’s rape, had accompanied Radi on that previous misadventure, and was likewise arrested at that time for the attack on the journalist and for public intoxication. Boutafar had described the two as “inseparable friends” who share in the same activities, including ribald nights out.

Even Boutafar’s own experiences with Radi before the rape were marred by his character flaws and emotional instability, as she described it.

In the penultimate interaction before the rape, Boutafar had another awkward encounter with Radi, who made inappropriate sexual overtures towards her, which she had tried to ignore due to their professional relationship, and which, at the time, she attributed to his personal and professional problems. This encounter had transpired stealthily, without anyone witnessing; all of their colleagues are aware that they are not in a relationship and that Boutafar is engaged to someone else. Radi never contacted her or apologized after either that brief encounter which passed unnoticed or for the later rape, , and Boutafar never reached out to him either. “Is there a victim who communicates with her rapist?” – asked Boutafar, adding that she has never tried to talk to him since and has no intention of contacting him in the future.

Boutafar did not go into the details of the rape, explaining that she cannot discuss certain issues due to the confidentiality of the investigative process but did explain the circumstances that led to this situation. She, Radi, and Imad Stitou, were staying overnight with their supervisor for a social and professional dinner and evening at the supervisor’s large family home.

Other than the previous inappropriate incident, nothing seemed to indicate a particular problem. Their other interactions had been collegial. Boutafar had previously tried to help Radi deal with his professional and personal problems and had counseled Radi, with respect to his legal cases and other professional issues, saying: “”You must respect the institutions of the state and communicate with respect and politeness together because it is our duty to be ethical and not to provoke others, and if there are problems, the mind and sobriety must be solved with all professionalism and respect.” Omar Radi, however, she stated, continued to behave as he would and to follow his own inclinations.

On the night of rape, the three guests were staying in a salon, which was a large and isolated location, away from the other bedrooms of the house. After dinner, Boutafar withdrew first because she wanted to call her fiancé. She did not immediately get through. Everyone went to sleep, except the manager who had gone to work in his office before bed. Omar Al-Radi pretended to be asleep. Imad Stitou had apparently been extremely drunk and passed out. Boutafar had not had any relations with Stitou and did not know anything about him other than the fact of his close relationship with Radi. Radi, too, had been drinking heavily at dinner and was very intoxicated, according to Boutafar. Boutafar added that Radi is in that state frequently and described him as “addicted to alcohol.” While waiting for a better opportunity to reach her fiance, Boutafar had fallen asleep briefly.

Eventually Boutafar woke up and decided to try calling again. After some time, Boutafar was awake and was talking to her fiance late at night, due to the fact that he lives in the United States and there is a time difference which makes communication difficult. Despite the previous incident, Boutafar did not believe that Radi would harm her, and was about to go back to sleep after her conversation ended. Because Al-Radi had been imitating sleep, she had ignored him, and therefore, what happened next took her by surprise. He suddenly pounced on her and violently attacked and raped Boutafar, ignoring her requests to stop and holding her mouth closed with his hand. He was in a hysterical state, continued Boutafar, holding her down in a way that silenced her but also made it hard to breathe, and overpowering her with extreme force.

In the morning, Radi and Stitou withdrew early, whereas Boutafar felt she could not disclose what happened to the manager or to his family due to shock, exhaustion, and physical pain. She felt disgusted with herself due to this experience and was afraid of being blamed for what happened, of being dragged into a scandal and defamed. “We live in a male society – said Boutafar – women are always to blame.”

“After a week of shock, reflection and fear, I went directly to file a complaint with the Public Prosecution of Casablanca, after which I informed the directors of the institution, and I also submitted a complaint to the Moroccan Association for Human Rights (Association Marocain du Droi de l’homme)” – continued Boutafar. Before filing the complaint, Boutafar said, she had encountered Radi in the manager’s office, but left immediately because she could not stand the sight of him, nor to be left in his company for any period of time. When asked about Radi’s promise to bring in additional but unspecified evidence of their allegedly consensual sexual relationship, which he had made in the process following the news that his colleague had filed a rape case against him, Boutafar said: “He is free to say what he wants, if he has evidence. Let him present it to the judiciary”. Prior to being charged, Boutafar added, Radi went around boasting about the rape among the various bars where he continued getting drunk, and later revealing the confidential details of cases against him in the media and to his friends at those bars.

Boutafar was hoping not to hear again about Radi once he was charged, and furthermore to see him investigated by the Moroccan human rights NGO.

Then the unexpected happened.

“Immediately after I left the association, the latter informed Omar Radi of the contents of the complaint and warned him about the fact that I was about to file a case with the police against him.

The association leaked my complaint and offered me as a scapegoat to the rapists, and more than that, Omar Radi admitted in his post on his Facebook account that he had” received the content of the complaint from the association.” – said Boutafar.

The association is known for its radical views; ideologically, it is very close to Radi, but enjoys freedom to operate from the government, which does not wish to be accused of suppressing critical speech.

However, leaking rape complaints violates confidentiality and the NGO’s ethical obligations in protecting the rights of complainants from potential violence, abuse, and incursions on their privacy. The corruption of the process by Radi’s ideological fellow traveler, a well known human rights NGO, is but one puzzling and disconcerting piece making up the jigsaw of this convoluted story.

Radi, as noted above, had a history of violent episodes. In an exclusive interview with the author for this article, the Chouf TV camera operator and paparazzo Abdelkarim Alaoui, assaulted by Radi and his friends outside a Casablanca bar, and gave additional information, revealing and substantiating Radi’s shocking record of violence while in a state of extreme intoxication. Prior to the attack, Alaoui did not know Radi at all, although he knew by reputation that Radi was a drunkard, had in the past been accused of rape, and later learned that Radi had boasted about his latest rape accusations and other adventures at bars. Alaouis also had heard that Radi used to frequent all the bars in Casablanca, and frequently used to get into shouting matches and scuffles with other people inside and outside these pubs.

July 5, 2020, Sunday, the day of the assault, was Alaoui’s day off. During the
week days, he works night shifts from midnight to 8h AM, as all his colleagues and followers know. Normally he drives a motorcycle, rather than the car. That weekend, however, he was with his family in a car driving around the city. At one point, Aloui stopped to get his son a bottle of water in an alley shop, and held back to get some ice cream and returned to the car. As Alaoui waited for his son to finish eating before driving away, he saw three people approach, which scared Alaoui’s wife because she thought those were robbers. They closed the car windows.

Two people approached the sides of the car and began filming with the comment, “Here is ChoufTV, here is a cameraman of ChoufTV, We caught Chouf TV ..” …

When Alaoui looked at the person filming on his side, he discovered that it was Omar Radi, a journalist from another local outlet. Alaoui saluted Radi and felt relieved knowing that Radi and his friends were not thieves. However, instead of returning the greeting, Radi and his companions insulted Alaoui and his family, using obscene language, and one of Radi’s companions continued to film his family from his side while Alaoui’s wife was screaming in fright and his son was crying due to the horror of the situation. According to Alaoui, the third person from the group remained standing without taking part in the filming. Alaoui, having observed all this, got out of the car, closing its doors to protect his family. Once he was out of the car, Radi and the others insulted him, and physically attacked, tearing Alaoui’s clothes, pushing him around, and beating him, which caused bruising.

Luckily, said Alaoui, a police patrol across the street heard the screaming and came down to take the report. Relieved, Alaoui related the incident to the officers. Radi and his friends did not leave; they were drunk to the point of not being able to stand up straight. The officers asked everyone for IDs and phones. Radi and the others at first refused to hand over the phones, claiming that they were journalists. As a result, everyone including Alaoui, was taken to the police station, where he filed a complaint and later followed up on in it. Although he did not suffer extensive physical damage, the whole family, says Alaoui, was traumatized by the incident.

These disturbing stories shed further light upon the Radi controversy, but the most questionable aspect of this story is the lack of due diligence on the part of Amnesty, and the Moroccan human rights NGO which had both failed to vet Radi’s reputation. Amnesty continued to defend him vociferously and to push his surveillance claims in the media, despite the complete lack of technical evidence and despite Radi’s obvious motive to lie. At no point had Amnesty gone back to verify these claims, even after Radi’s reputation had been damaged by repeated arrests for issues unrelated to his alleged press and political challenges. Radi’s reputation of a boasting drunkard with a history of sexual and other violence raises questions about his motivations for getting Amnesty involved in this situation.

Only after Radi was charged with rape and placed in custody did Amnesty start showing belated concern, perhaps in an effort to avoid further embarrassment and to distance itself from its troublesome protege.

However, Amnesty’s attempt at self preservation raises more troublesome question.

How did Radi and Amnesty find each other to begin with?

Was Radi’s career floundering and perhaps he wanted to come out as a hero by moving the onus of responsibility for his other legal problems onto the Moroccan government by way of Amnesty? Was he in professional and financial trouble due to his drinking habits and needed the extra cash, and for that reason had turned to foreign intelligence, which eventually prompted investigations? Had his political activity cross the line into inappropriate interference with judiciary processes concerning the Rif protests Radi had covered as a journalist while his judgment was impaired due to alcohol, and to avoid accountability, he decided to fabricate a political case that would elevate him to the status of a rebel and martyr with a cause in the court of public opinion?

Did his ideological leanings combine with laziness and greed, and rather than pursuing a career as an investigative reporter, did he perhaps decide to turn to media notoriety to make easy cash which he could then spend at bars? Did the public attention allotted him by the Amnesty campaign make him feel invincible and did he start acting with increasing recklessness and disregard for the rights of others due to the sense of impunity granted to him by the political undertones of his case? Did Amnesty not care about the types of “heroes” it promoted, however insignificant and unlikely, so long as they helped push the agenda?

Has corruption inside the NGO reached such levels that it was willing to deliberately promote a known security threat and a spy so long as it helped advance the campaign against Morocco and NSO? Is a clandestine foreign agenda to blame?

All of these are valid questions, but they invite a look into possible allegations of corruption inside Moroccan government, and more specifically, the responsibility for this outcome among the ranking members of the ruling PJD party. If Amnesty has been a known and persistent problem, with a penchant for recruiting rabble rousers, accused rapists, spies, and activists promoting adversarial agendas such as the separatist Polisario organization known to have engaged in acts of terror and to have partnered with other terrorist and organized crime groups, why was nothing done about it for years? Why, for instance, has the Minister of State for Human Rights, Mostapha Ramid, not shut down Amnesty’s offices as the government has threatened to do in the past? Why allow a facilitator of security threats, disinformation, and attacks on the country to operate with impunity?

The answer may lie in who this minister is and in what his party represents
Ramid is one of the Islamist leader of the PJD party, which currently heads the Moroccan government.

PJD created by Dr Abdelkarim Khatib, affiliated with the central international organization of the Muslim Brotherhood, and its religious branch, the Union internationale des oulémas musulmans (UIOM) (The International Union of the Muslim Ulema) , supported by and hosted in Qatar.

The president of this body is the Moroccan Sheikh Ahmed Raissouni, who succeeded the Egyptian Sheikh Qaradawi.

Sheikh Ahmed Raissouni is founder and one of the main ideological pillars of the PJD.
Many questions remain. One of them is who is behind the position of not closing the office of Amnesty, an organization which through its report and accusation of espionage against journalists (Omar Radi affair), attacks the Moroccan intelligence services, and especially the DGST, and is trying to discredit it by attacking the Israeli software, and covertly, any hints of a relationship with Israel.

The general director of Amnesty Maroc, Mohamed Sektaoui, also has his own personal chip on his shoulder against his home country due to the years he spent in prisons thanks to his militant leftist activity. Could a personal vendetta combined with political interests have motivated the intense and singular focus on Morocco in recent months?

Is there a corrupt link between Amnesty, Moroccan government officials, Qataris, and the Muslim Brotherhood?

And does this corruption then trickle down to local human rights NGOs, which are, perhaps, feel impunity, empowerment, and protection from ethics investigations from leaks to accused rapists like Radi thanks to the tacit protection from the very same political echelons?

Much is yet to be revealed, but the investigation is ongoing.

One thing is certain: thanks to the corruption of the human rights NGOs and politics, the Omar Radi case is likely tainted for good.

More to come; to be continued…

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Irina Tsukerman

Irina Tsukerman is a New York-based human rights and national security lawyer and analyst. She has written extensively about geopolitics, foreign policy, and security issues for a wide variety of domestic and international publication. She has appeared on Fox Business, i24, and the John Batchelor Show, and has been interviewed by multiple Arabic language channels and publications, including Morocco’s 2M and Al Arabiya. Her writings have been translated to Arabic, Farsi, Spanish, French, Portuguese, German, and Indonesian.

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