Moroccan court starts hearing Saudi Australian extradition case

·2 min read

RABAT (Reuters) - A Moroccan court on Monday began hearing the extradition case of a Saudi-Australian national whose wife fears he may face torture and even death if sent to Saudi Arabia.

Osama al-Hasani was arrested on Feb. 8 when he arrived in the Moroccan city of Tangier, where he was planning to join his wife and four-month-old baby.

"I call on Moroccan authorities to release my innocent husband ... If he is extradited to Saudi Arabia, I am afraid he would face a fate similar to that of (Jamal) Khashoggi,” his wife Hanae said, referring to the journalist killed by Saudi agents in the kingdom's Istanbul consulate in 2018.

"The court did not issue a verdict yet," Hanae said, adding that her husband "has not engaged either in overt nor in covert political activity against Saudi Arabia".

A court in Saudi Arabia has sentenced Hasani, a businessman who previously worked at a Saudi university, to two years in prison.

A Moroccan justice ministry official said the arrest took place following an Interpol notice filed by Saudi Arabia, adding that Al Hasani is wanted by the Saudis for a penal code matter involving theft.

A source who attended the hearing said the defence had pointed out that Saudi documents mention that Al Hasani was born to a Moroccan father, which makes him a Moroccan under that country's law.

Moroccan law prevents extraditing Moroccans to other countries, the source quoted lawyers saying.

"Morocco has ratified an anti-torture convention and should abstain from extraditing a national to a state where he may endure torture," said Khadija Ryadi of Moroccan rights group AMDH.

"The circumstances of his detention and possible extradition are of concern to Australia," a spokesperson for the Australian foreign ministry told Reuters by email.

(Reporting by Ahmed Eljechtimi; Editing by Angus McDowall and Giles Elgood)