Teenage rape victim dies after setting herself on fire in Morocco

Moroccan authorities are investigating the death of a teenage rape victim who set herself on fire after her alleged attackers threatened to publish photographs of the ordeal, a rights group has said.

The Moroccan Association of Human Rights said an autopsy after the girl’s death last week showed that she was pregnant.

The AMDH Marrakesh head, Omar Arbib, said “eight young men abducted the girl,” then 16, last year from Ben Guerir, 43 miles (70km) north of Marrakesh, “and then took turns to rape her”.

Her family lodged a complaint and police arrested seven suspects, who were referred to the prosecutor for questioning, Arbib said. An eighth suspect was later arrested.

However, according to Arbib, the prosecutor granted the suspects a provisional release. After being freed, he said, they threatened the victim, saying they would “publish pictures of the rape which they had taken with their mobile phones unless she dropped the complaint against them”.

“This is the reason why last Friday she set herself on fire,” Arbib said.

The girl suffered third-degree burns and died the following day in hospital. Her death prompted the prosecutor to order the rearrest of six of the eight suspects who were detained, Arbib said. It was not immediately clear why the other two suspects were not rearrested.

In 2011, Morocco adopted a new constitution enshrining gender equality and urging the state to promote it, but concerns remain around sexual harassment.

According to Moroccan NGOs, 80% of sex attacks affect children aged mostly between 5 and 14. In many cases, the assailants are family members.

In January 2014, Morocco abandoned a highly controversial law that allowed rapists of underage people to escape punishment if they marry their victims.

The legislation made headlines globally in March 2012 when Amina Filali, 16, killed herself after being forced to marry the man who had allegedly raped her and remained free.

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