The attorneys of a Moroccan journalist imprisoned on Friday urged a UN special rapporteur to ask the authorities to release his phone, in order to retrieve an "exchange of messages" with the assassinated Saudi dissident, Jamal Khashoggi.
"The defense of the Moroccan journalist Taoufik Bouachrine, arbitrarily detained, asks Agnes Callamard, UN special rapporteur" to ask the Moroccan authorities access to the phone Bouachrine, said the lawyer of the journalist arrested in a statement.
Khashoggi – a contributor to the Washington Post and a critic of the Saudi government – was killed and dismembered at the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul by a team of 15 agents sent from Riyadh. His body was not found.
Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, is conducting an independent investigation into the terrible death of Khashoggi.
According to the statement, Bouachrine's lawyer sent a letter to Callamard urging him to demand the release of the phone, allegedly confiscated by the Moroccan authorities.
Bouachrine said his phone "contains messages from Jamal Khashoggi warning him of the existing threats against him," the statement said.
He indicated that messages exchanged between October 2017 and January 2018 were likely to be of particular interest to the Special Rapporteur's investigation.
Khashoggi's warnings to Bouachrine about his safety stem from "many critical articles by him (Bouachrine) of critics from Saudi Arabia and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman," the statement added by his lawyers.
A Moroccan court sentenced Bouachrine to 12 years in prison in November 2018, after being found guilty of human trafficking, abuse of power for sexual purposes, rape and attempted rape.
Bouachrine maintains his innocence and described his convictions as political motivations, while the rights group Amnesty International has called for his release.
Bouachrine's journal, Akhbar Al-Yaum, has long been known for its editorials and cartoons criticizing the Moroccan authorities.
Khashoggi told Bouachrine "not to go to Saudi Arabia and also warned that he was running the risk of being killed" even in Rabat, the capital of Morocco, the statement said. .
A UN Human Rights Council working group reported in January that Bouachrine had been the victim of "arbitrary detention" and "judicial harassment".
She also mentioned the lack of evidence and the alleged intimidation of witnesses.
The Moroccan authorities firmly deny the accusations.