Moroccan citizen jailed for 5 years for criticizing king in Facebook posts

Moroccan justice has sentenced an Internet user to five years in prison for annoying the monarchy after criticizing the normalization of diplomacy with Israel on Facebook, his lawyer told sources on Wednesday.

48 Boukioud “was convicted 5 years in jail on Monday for Facebook posts in which he denounced normalization with Israel in a way that could be interpreted as criticizing the king,” the lawyer said. El Hassan Essouni, who filed the petition.

Under the Constitution, Moroccan foreign policy is the prerogative of the monarch, in this case Mohammed VI.

Morocco and Israel normalized diplomatic relations on December 10, 2020, as part of a tripartite agreement with Washington.

The lawyer called the Casablanca trial court’s ruling “heavy and incomprehensible”, and stressed that if his client expressed a refusal to normalize, he did not mean to offend sovereignty.

The incident originated at the end of 2020, when Boukioud worked and lived in Qatar.

He “deleted (accusing) publications and closed his (Facebook) account upon learning that he was being prosecuted in Morocco,” his lawyer said.

Saïd Boukioud was convicted under article 267-5 of the penal code, which punishes “anyone who subverts the monarchy” with prison terms ranging from six months to two years.

But the penalty can be increased to five years in prison if the offense is committed in public – “including by electronic means”.

Human rights activists accuse the law of hindering freedom of expression and of “failing to specifically identify events that could constitute an attack” on the monarchy. Since the normalization of diplomacy, the two allies have increased cooperation, mainly in the fields of military, security, trade and tourism.

But this full-scale resumption of relations was not agreed upon in Morocco, especially as radical nationalist movements came to power in Israel.

Although militant mobilization has waned, the Palestinian cause continues to arouse great sympathy among the Moroccan people.

In a speech on Saturday on the anniversary of his enthronement, Mohammed VI reiterated Morocco’s “unshakable stand in support of the Palestinian cause and the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people”.

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