Multiple times after reiterating that she had not undergone an abortion, Moroccan journalist Hajar Raissouni has been finally set free.
On Wednesday, Morocco's King Mohammed VI pardoned the journalist, who was sentenced to a year in prison last month under the false pretense that she had undergone an abortion. She was also charged with engaging in premarital sex at the time. Now, the country's king has released Raissouni, her fiancé, as well as the doctor and two of his colleagues in what the ministry described as an "act of compassion and mercy."
A statement shared by the Ministry of Justice also added that the intervention came about to "preserve the future of the couple who intended to start a family in line with religious precepts and law," according to The Guardian.
But was her one-year jail sentence even justifiable to begin with?
Raissouni's case drew widespread criticism from activists as it was a prime example of violations of women's freedoms and choices.
"She should not have been jailed in the first place," an Amnesty International staff member, who requested not to be named, told The Guardian. Her choices should have never been a matter of public concern. But, somehow, her bodily choices and decisions were placed in the heart of the court. All this, despite the fact that she reiterated that the charges had been fabricated. TrialWatch, a subset of the Clooney Foundation for Justice - which monitored Raissouni's trial - said that it bore "the hallmarks of an unfair and punitive process."
"The defense asserted that blood tests revealed that the levels of pregnancy hormone in the defendant's blood were so low that it would have been impossible for her to be eight weeks pregnant as the police's doctor claimed."
Aside from fabricating claims, police had also forced Raissouni to undergo a 20-minute "painful medical examination" without anesthetics while in custody, the journalist revealed in a September court hearing.
But her version of the story fell on deaf ears for a while.
At the end of August, six undercover police officers hounded Raissouni and her fiancé, repeatedly asking her if she had undergone an abortion — allegations she denied. Five days after her arrest, a medical report signed by a doctor at Rabat's Ibn-Sina Hospital claimed Raissouni had had an abortion. The report also claimed it to be Raissouni's second abortion in six months, according to Morocco World News.
However, the newspaper Raissouni works at - Al Akhbar Al Yaoum - drew attention to the inconsistencies present in the report, proving it's been manufactured. According to the medical report, "there is no trace of a tenaculum [a scissor-like surgical instrument] being used on Hajar's uterus." The newspaper then noted that "abortion is impossible without the use of a tenaculum."
"He [the king] should now reform the system"
"Unfair and obsolete laws"
In Morocco, it is illegal for abortions to be carried out; both the doctor and the pregnant woman are barred from respectively performing and undergoing the procedure. However, Article 453 of Morocco's Penal Code stipulates that "abortion is not punishable if it is practiced to preserve the mother's health in case of a medical threat." However, even in such cases, a husband's approval is mandatory.
In 2016, the government approved a number of amendments to the Penal Code, one of which legalized abortion in cases of rape, incest, situations where the mother has serious mental health issues, or when the fetus has a serious illness or malformation. However, these changes have not been implemented yet. According to the Institution National de Solidarité avec les Femmes en détresse (INSAF), more than 210,000 unmarried mothers were recorded in Morocco between 2003 and 2009. Over this period, 24 children were abandoned per day.