Internet user in Morocco gets 5 years in jail for offence to king

A Moroccan internet user has been handed a five-year jail sentence for criticizing the king on Facebook regarding the country’s normalization of ties with Israel, as confirmed by his lawyer to media on Wednesday.

Said Boukioud, aged 48, received a five-year prison sentence on Monday for his Facebook posts that denounced the country’s normalization with Israel, which could be interpreted as criticism of the king, according to his lawyer El Hassan Essouni.

Boukioud’s legal counsel stated that they have already lodged an appeal.

According to the country’s constitution, foreign affairs fall under the prerogative of the monarch, King Mohammed VI.

Morocco and Israel formalized their diplomatic relations in December 2020 as part of the US-brokered Abraham Accords.

The lawyer expressed that the Casablanca court’s verdict is “harsh and incomprehensible.”

The lawyer further clarified that his client had no intention of offending the king while expressing his rejection of ties with Israel.

The Facebook posts in question were made by Boukioud towards the end of 2020, while he was residing and working in Qatar.

The lawyer mentioned that upon learning about the prosecution in Morocco, Boukioud promptly deleted the posts and closed his account on Facebook.

Boukioud was found guilty under Article 267-5 of the penal code, which specifies a prison sentence ranging from six months to two years for anyone convicted of undermining the monarchy.

However, the sentence can be increased to five years if the offense is committed publicly, including through electronic means.

Human rights activists argue that the law hinders freedom of expression, and its wording fails to precisely define what actions might be considered an attack on the monarchy.

Since normalizing ties, Morocco and Israel have strengthened cooperation in various domains, such as security, trade, and tourism.

But not all Moroccans support this, especially since the rise to power of the far-right wing coalition led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last December.

Many Moroccans also hold strong pro-Palestinian sympathies.

In a speech on Saturday marking the anniversary of his accession to the throne in 1999, the king reiterated “Morocco’s unwavering stance in support of the just Palestinian cause and the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.”

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