BENI MELLAL, Morocco — A 17-year-old Moroccan girl whose alleged gang rape and forcible tattooing sparked a public outcry has confronted in court the only minor among the 12 suspects accused of assaulting and torturing her.
The girl, identified only as Khadija, was brought in through a backdoor for the court hearing Wednesday out of concern relatives of the suspects might attempt to attack her.
Recounting her ordeal to the investigating judge, Khadija alleged that the suspect, also 17-years-old, was among the people who abused and held her captive for two months, according to her lawyer, Brahim Hashane.
Because of his age, the teenager will have a separate trial on charges of human trafficking, abuse and rape, Hashane said.
His mother spoke outside of the court, where dozens of relatives cried for the release of the suspects. She claimed her son had never met Khadija.
The judge scheduled a third hearing for Oct.24.
Khadija's case generated a large public reaction in Morocco. Violence against women is widespread in the North African kingdom, but largely ignored. More than 116,600 people signed a petition urging action to end a culture that turns a blind eye to such violence.
Twelve suspects were initially detained after Khadija was freed from the alleged captivity in mid-August, while three more were thought to be on the run. The young men face charges ranging from failure to report a crime to abduction, rape, abuse and human trafficking.
The girl has said two men kidnapped her at knifepoint when she was visiting her aunt during the May-June holy month of Ramadan. She said they sold her to other men in exchange for money and drugs. She claimed her captors gave her drugs that knocked her out for days at a time.
Reflecting the stigma associated with sexual abuse in this Muslim nation, the girl's parents initially refused to report her case to authorities.