The trial of a Moroccan journalist accused of having sex outside marriage and a late-term, voluntary abortion has been postponed after hundreds of people protested outside a court in the capital, Rabat.

Both are crimes in Morocco, but prosecutions for abortions are comparatively rare.

The case brought against Hajar Raissouni, who denies the charges and works for a paper critical of the government, has sparked intense debate about press freedom and civil liberties in the predominately Muslim North African nation.

Journalists and human rights activists believe the case has political overtones, though the prosecution denies this is the case.

According to Amnesty International, Ms Raissouni was arrested on 31 August along with her fiancé as they left a clinic in Rabat.

A doctor and two others working at the clinic were also arrested on suspicion of carrying out an abortion.

Under Moroccan law, couples who engage in sex outside of marriage can be jailed for up to one year, Amnesty says.

A woman who has had an abortion can be punished with a prison term of between six months and two years and a fine, it adds.

“This case is a stark reminder of the urgent need to repeal Morocco’s laws criminalising sex outside marriage and abortion,” Amnesty’s Heba Morayef has said in a statement.

According to the Reuters news agency, the Moroccan Association for Abortion Rights says between 600 and 800 abortions take place illegally each day.

The protesters outside the court at the opening of her trial on Monday called for the 28-year-old, who works for the Akhbar Al-Yaoum newspaper, to be released, the AFP news agency reports.

Some also held placards with slogans such as “My body, my freedom” and “No, to the criminalisation of sex between consenting adults”, the agency reports.

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