Morocco 'kiss' teens acquitted with reprimand

Morocco 'kiss' teens acquitted with reprimand
A woman looks at a Facebook page in Agadir on October 11, 2013, published in support of the three Moroccan teenagers arrested for posting Facebook photos of two of them kissing outside their school in the northern town of Nador.

RABAT - A Moroccan court Friday acquitted three teenagers accused of public indecency after pictures of two of them kissing were posted on Facebook, but reprimanded the couple, their lawyer told AFP.

The teens had risked possible prison sentences of five years under the kingdom's penal code, in a case that drew strong criticism from international rights groups and sparked a storm of online protest in socially conservative Morocco.

"They were acquitted of the charges, notably of public indecency and publishing compromising photos, which is something positive," said Monaim Fattahi.

"But the boy and the girl who were pictured kissing were reprimanded by the court. It is unjust, because they are minors and Facebook is a private space," the lawyer added.

The couple aged 14 and 15 and their 15-year-old male friend who took the photos were arrested in October in the conservative northern town of Nador, after a local NGO filed a lawsuit charging that their actions had a negative effect on society.

The youths were held in a juvenile detention centre for three days before being released on bail.

"The family of the young couple have not yet decided if they will appeal this verdict or not," Fattahi said.

The arrests and trial triggered a wave of online support, with activists posting pictures of couples locking lips.

Around a dozen couples also staged a symbolic but unprecedented "kiss-in" outside parliament in Rabat.

A small group of counter-protesters shoved some of the couples and threw chairs.

Morocco has a reputation for religious tolerance and personal liberty, particularly when compared with other Muslim countries.

Women enjoy relatively extensive freedoms and there are plenty of bars in the main cities. But it still remains a conservative and deeply religious society.

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