King's Controversial Pardon Shines Light On Pedophilia Taboos In Morocco

Mohammed VI pardoned a Spanish pedophile, before reversing himself. The case raised questions about the monarchy, but also exposes Morocco's inability to confront the plague of sex abuse.

A "Don't Touch My Kids" demonstration in Morocco
A "Don't Touch My Kids" demonstration in Morocco
Elise Vincent
KENITRA - It is just a detail, but it is indicative of the taboos surrounding pedophilia: Moroccans do not know the home neighborhood of Daniel Galvan, the pedophile at first pardoned by King Mohamed VI in a case griping the nation and raising questions about the monarchy's arbitrary application of justice.
Though the address of the convicted Spanish citizen was no state secret, the Moroccan media has not published a picture of the white building complex where he'd lived — nor even reported the name of this modest neighborhood, in the suburb of Kenitra, one of the country's main industrial cities, 40 kilometers from Rabat.
The stated reasons for this discretion? The need to “protect” children. But most of all the concern about the protection of families’ reputation. When Mohammed VI met the families, on August 7, after he'd decided to reverse the clemency following a nationwide uproar, all faces were blurred in photos and videos. Important measures were then taken to avoid committing a new blunder in the eyes of the Moroccan society that had never before faced this topic so publicly.
Najia Adib knows it well. In 2004 she created one of the two associations in the country helping sexually abused minors, called "Touche pas à mes enfants" (Don’t Touch My Kids). Her commitment results from a personal tragedy. In 2002, this dynamic civil servant in her forties was the first mother of a pedophile’s victim who openly testified on Moroccan television.
A few months earlier she had discovered her four-year-old girl had been abused by a school employee. Adib could identify the aggressor thanks to a DNA test carried out on her daughter's underwear. “Despite that, I heard all kinds of things,” she says. In a country where you can buy fake testimony for a few dirhams, she heard people saying her complaint was part of a plot to have the school closed down.
It was not an easy battle, even in court. In spite of the DNA test, the defendant's confessions that he'd abused several children, he was only sentenced to two years in prison. It would take several sit-ins in front of the school and an appeal to obtain what is now a standard punishment: five years in jail.

A twisted exemption
On paper, Moroccan laws are not permissive. The rape of a minor is punishable by up to 30 years imprisonment. “The problem is not the law, but the way these types of acts are viewed. They’re not regarded as serious crimes and punished as minor crimes,” says Yassine Krari, the association's lawyer.
The sentencing of Daniel Galvan to 30 years in prison in 2011 was indeed an exception. The punishment was only possible thanks to photographic and video evidence: Galvan had broadcast and made money from his sexual abuse of children.
Because of the weight of taboos, numerous cases end up quite differently: without making any noise, with an amicable settlement. Especially thanks to the controversial article of the Moroccan penal code: the article 475 that allows the aggressor of a “nubile” minor to be exempted from serving his sentence if he marries her.
“The Arab Spring brought a lot of changes”, says Hamid Krairi, lawyer of several victims of Daniel Galvan and an activist with the Moroccan Human Rights Association. “But this movement did not deeply modify a society influenced by the Muslim religion.”
Pedophilia is not only the result of sexual tourism. “Street children prostitution is just as important,” Abid notes, “but they never press charges.” So in her fight she focuses on middle-class people, the main victims, and then on the upper class within which “children are poorly monitored.
The means for changing attitudes — and actions — are still modest. Doctors and lawyers to whom she referred the victims are volunteers, and funds for the foundations are limited. Abid says she hopes the Galvan case could “be a message addressed to the judges.”
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Protests against gasoline price hikes in Lebanon

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Wai!*

Welcome to Thursday, where leaked documents show how some countries are lobbying to change a key report on climate change, Moscow announces new full lockdown and the world's first robot artist is arrested over spying allegations. Meanwhile, German daily Die Welt looks at the rapprochement between two leaders currently at odds with Europe: UK's BoJo and Turkey's Erdogan.

[*Bodo - India, Nepal and Bengal]


• Documents reveal countries lobbying against climate action: Leaked documents have revealed that some of the world's biggest fossil fuel and meat producing countries, including Australia, Japan and Saudi Arabia, are trying to water down a UN scientific report on climate change and pushing back on its recommendations for action, less than one month before the COP26 climate summit.

• COVID update: The city of Moscow plans to reintroduce lockdown measures next week, closing nearly all shops, bars and restaurants, after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a nationwide seven-day workplace shutdown from Oct. 30 to combat the country's record surge in coronavirus cases and deaths. Meanwhile, India has crossed the 1 billion vaccinations milestone.

• India and Nepal floods death toll passes 180: Devastating floods in Nepal and the two Indian states of Uttarakhand and Kerala have killed at least 180 people, following record-breaking rainfall.

• Barbados elects first ever president: Governor general Dame Sandra Mason has been elected as Barbados' first president as the Caribbean island prepares to become a republic after voting to remove Queen Elizabeth II as head of state.

• Trump to launch social media platform: After being banned from several social media platforms including Facebook and Twitter, former U.S. President Donald Trump announced he would launch his own app called TRUTH Social in a bid "to fight back against Big Tech." The app is scheduled for release early next year.

• Human remains found in hunt for Gabby Petito's fiance: Suspected human remains and items belonging to Brian Laundrie were found in a Florida park, more than one month after his disappearance. Laundrie was a person of interest in the murder of his fiancee Gabby Petito, who was found dead by strangulation last month.

• Artist robot detained in Egypt over spying fear: Ai-Da, the world's ultra-realistic robot artist, was detained for 10 days by authorities in Egypt where it was due to present its latest art works, over fears the robot was part of an espionage plot. Ai-Da was eventually cleared through customs, hours before the exhibition was due to start.


"Nine crimes and a tragedy," titles Brazilian daily Extra, after a report from Brazil's Senate concluded that President Jair Bolsonaro and his government had failed to act quickly to stop the deadly coronavirus pandemic, accusing them of crimes against humanity.


Erdogan and Boris Johnson: A new global power duo?

As Turkey fears the EU closing ranks over defense, Turkish President Erdogan is looking to Boris Johnson as a post-Brexit ally, especially as Angela Merkel steps aside. This could undermine the deal where Ankara limits refugee entry into Europe, and other dossiers too, write Carolina Drüten and Gregor Schwung in German daily Die Welt.

🇹🇷🇬🇧 According to the Elysée Palace, the French presidency "can't understand" why Turkey would overreact, since the defense pact that France recently signed in Paris with Greece is not aimed at Ankara. Although Paris denies this, it is difficult to see the agreement as anything other than a message, perhaps even a provocation, targeted at Turkey. The country has long felt left out in the cold, at odds with the European Union over a number of issues. Yet now President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is setting his sights on another country, which also wants to become more independent from Europe: the UK.

⚠️ Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel always argued for closer collaboration with Turkey. She never supported French President Emmanuel Macron's ideas about greater strategic autonomy for countries within the EU. But now that she's leaving office, Macron is keen to make the most of the power vacuum Merkel will leave behind. The prospect of France's growing influence is "not especially good news for Turkey," says Ian Lesser, vice president of the think tank German Marshall Fund.

🤝 At the UN summit in September, Erdogan had a meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the recently opened Turkish House in New York. Kalin says it was a "very good meeting" and that the two countries are "closely allied strategic partners." He says they plan to work together more closely on trade, but with a particular focus on defense. The groundwork for collaboration was already in place. Britain consistently supported Turkey's ambition to join the EU, and gave an ultimate proof of friendship after the failed coup in 2016.

➡️


"He has fought tirelessly against the corruption of Vladimir Putin's regime. This cost him his liberty and nearly his life."

— David Sassoli, president of the European Parliament, wrote on Twitter, following the announcement that imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was awarded the 2021 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, the European Union's highest tribute to human rights defenders. Navalny, who survived a poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin, is praised for his "immense personal bravery" in fighting Putin's regime. The European Parliament called for his immediate release from jail, as Russian authorities opened a new criminal case against the activist that could see him stay in jail for another decade.



Chinese video platform Youku is under fire after announcing it is launching a new variety show called in Mandarin Squid's Victory (Yóuyú de shènglì) on social media, through a poster that also bears striking similarities with the visual identity of Netflix's current South Korean hit series Squid Game. Youku apologized by saying it was just a "draft" poster.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Anyone want to guess Trump's first post on his upcoming social media platform...? Let us know how the news look in your corner of the world — drop us a note at!

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