A Moroccan internet user has been sentenced to five years in jail due to criticism of the Moroccan king.
Said Boukioud, 48 was sent to jail for comments made on his Facebook account regarding King Mohammed VI’s supposed normalisation of ties with Israel, according to The Guardian, August 3.
The 48-year old’s lawyer El Hassan Essouni said on August 3 that he made comments “in a way that could be interpreted as criticism of the king”. He also noted that his client had appealed the sanction.
In recent years, many in the country, including journalists, have been arrested as Morocco cracks down on speech critical of the monarchy, government and authorities.
Under the country’s constitution, foreign affairs are the prerogative of the monarch.
Boukioud’s comments referred to King Mohammed VI’s normalised relations between Morocco and Israel in December 2020 as part of the US-backed Abraham Accords.
Mr Essouni stated that The Casablanca court’s verdict “is harsh and incomprehensible “and that despite his client expressing rejection of ties with Israel, he had no intention to cause offence to the king in doing so.
The posts on Facebook dated from the end of 2020. Boukioud was living and working in Qatar when the comments were made.
When he learned about his prosecution in the North African country, he deleted his posts and closed his account according to his lawyer.
Boukioud was convicted under article 267-5 of the penal code, which stipulates a jail term of between six months and two years for anyone who undermines the monarchy.
However, that sentence can be increased to five years if an offence is committed publicly, including on social media platforms.
Human rights activists say the law stifles freedom of speech, and it is vaguely worded as it “does not specify exactly what might constitute an attack” on the monarchy.
Many Moroccans and north Africans more generally are unwavering in their support for the Palestinian cause, especially since the rise to power in December last year of a coalition led by Israel’s hard-right Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.
Despite many in the country seeing the monarch as normalising ties with Israel, he recently stressed his support for the Palestinian people in a speech, marking the anniversary of his accession to the throne in 1999, reiterating, “Morocco’s unwavering stance in support of the just Palestinian cause and the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people”.