MOROCCO: Abuse sentence 'lenient'

Moroccan human rights groups are to appeal against the sentence imposed on a woman at the centre of a high-profile abuse case, saying it was too lenient.

The judge's wife was given three years in jail for torturing her 11-year-old maid, Zineb Chetite.

The court heard medical reports listing how the girl had at times been burnt with oil and an iron, had had her head shaved and was beaten with a stick.

The case has highlighted the plight of maids in Morocco and abroad.

Details of the woman's name have not been released, although she is known to be from an affluent family and the wife of a Moroccan judge.

Reports say she was sentenced to three-years in prison and fined 100,000 dirhams ($13,000; £8,150) for the torture and abuse of the young domestic servant.

'Stolen childhood'

Several human rights organisations say they are to appeal against the sentence on behalf of the estimated 80,000 child workers in Morocco, who are forced into such work by their families because of poverty.

"The sentence does not reflect the scale of the atrocities committed, because the little girl was locked up in a cellar," says Najia Adib of Don't Touch My Children.

"We're going to appeal because we feel the victim's childhood was stolen."

Zineb Chetite had to be taken to hospital earlier this year after a series of abuses, which included being burnt, beaten and suffering injuries to her genitalia, medical reports say.

The head of the Moroccan Human Rights Centre, Dr Khaled al-Sharqawi, told the BBC that the sentence was lenient as the court had not taken into consideration the maid's age, and the fact she was a defenceless child away from home.

The group is also demanding that the woman's husband be charged with abuse. It says he was spared legal action because of his position.

In September, a number of Moroccan non-governmental organisations appealed to the government to implement changes to the law, to prevent children younger than 15 from being employed as domestic servants.

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