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21 April 2024

'Usurper' of Moroccan prince's Facebook ID sent to prison

By Agencies



A 26-year-old engineer has been sentenced to three years in prison for creating a fake profile of the younger brother of Moroccan King Mohammed VI on the popular internet networking site Facebook.

A court in Casablanca on Friday convicted Fouad Mourtada of "usurping the identity of HRH Prince Moulay Rachid", and faking computer documents, the official MAP news agency reported. He was also fined 10,000 Moroccan dirhams (about US$1,300).

Mourtada's lawyers said they would appeal, the report said. They had sought to have the case thrown out on the grounds that he had been held too long in provisional custody after his arrest on February 6.

The case has gained widespread attention in the North African kingdom, and spurred an online campaign of his supporters who have appealed in writing to the prince for clemency.

Under Moroccan law, insults and outrage against royals can lead to prosecution. A Justice Ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to be cited by name, said Saturday that such cases are rare - only about one to three each year - though he did not have exact figures.

The official confirmed the case was one of a 'fake profile' of the prince, but did not elaborate.

Mohammed VI has been working to modernize his country after his father, King Hassan II, died in 1999. For example, seven women were named as government ministers in an October Cabinet shuffle.

But many web surfers fear an increasingly interventionist state in Moroccan cyberspace. When the video-sharing site YouTube temporarily - and mysteriously - went down in May, many Moroccan bloggers argued it was a sign of a rollback of media freedoms that had emerged after Mohammed VI first took power.

Maroc Telecom, which supplies most Internet access in the kingdom, said at the time that YouTube had not been blocked, and blamed the problem on a technical glitch.  (AP)