RABAT (Reuters) - Three newspapers were ordered by a Moroccan court to pay Libya a total of 3 million dirhams ($372,300) in damages on Monday for defaming its leader Muammar Gaddafi.
The papers were also fined 100,000 dirhams ($12,410) each for "attacks on the character and the dignity of a head of state", Moroccan official news agency MAP reported.
Defence lawyers said the case was flawed because Gaddafi is not formally head of state in Libya but is known simply as "Brother Leader and Guide of the Revolution".
"This (trial) is a blow for press freedom in Morocco and an attempt to execute the press," Morocco's National Press Union said in a statement ahead of the verdict.
The Libyan embassy in Morocco had asked a public prosecutor to claim damages of 30 million dirhams from each paper for articles published between 2008 and early 2009.
One paper said Gaddafi and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez shared "childish" viewpoints.
Another was reproached for criticising political theories expounded in the Libyan leader's Green Book and for a report about the arrest of his youngest son and daughter-in-law in Geneva on charges of assaulting their servants.
The three newspapers are Al Massae (The Evening), Al Jarida Al Oula (The First Newspaper) and Al Ahdat Al Maghribiya (Moroccan Event).