Moroccan courts have sentenced an Internet user to five years in prison for offending the monarchy after he criticized diplomatic normalization with Israel on Facebook, his lawyer told AFP on Wednesday.
Saïd Boukioud, 48, “was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment on Monday for Facebook posts in which he denounced normalization with Israel in a way that could be interpreted as criticism of the king”, explained his lawyer El Hassan Essouni, who has lodged an appeal.
Under the Constitution, Morocco’s 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 Casablanca Court of First Instance’s decision “is heavy-handed and incomprehensible”, commented the lawyer, stressing that while his client had expressed his rejection of normalization, he had in no way intended to offend the sovereign.
The facts date back to the end of 2020, when Mr. Boukioud was living and working in Qatar.
He “deleted the (incriminating) publications and closed his (Facebook) account when he learned that he was being prosecuted in Morocco”, said his lawyer.
Saïd Boukioud was convicted under article 267-5 of the Criminal Code, which punishes “anyone who undermines the monarchical regime” with six months to two years’ imprisonment.
But the sentence can be increased to five years’ imprisonment if the offence is committed in public – “including by electronic means”.
Human rights activists criticize the law for hindering freedom of expression, and for “failing to specify in concrete terms the facts that could constitute an attack” on the monarchy.
Since their diplomatic normalization, the two allies have been stepping up their cooperation, essentially in the military, security, trade, and tourism fields.
But this all-out rapprochement has not met with unanimous approval in Morocco, especially since ultra-nationalist currents have come to power in Israel.
Although militant mobilization has waned, the Palestinian cause continues to arouse immense sympathy among the Moroccan population.
In a speech marking the anniversary of his accession to the throne on Saturday, Mohammed VI reiterated “Morocco’s unshakeable position in favor of the just Palestinian cause and the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people”.