This article was also published on Global Voices Online.
On Monday, a court in the Moroccan city of Taza sentenced 24 year-old student Abdelsamad Haydour to 3 years in jail and a fine of USD 1,200 for criticizing the king of Morocco in a video [ar] posted on YouTube. According to the official state news agency [fr], Mr. Haydour is accused of “attacking the sacred values of the nation.”
According to one Moroccan news website Mr. Haydour had no legal assistance during the hearing and the Court did not appoint a lawyer to defend the accused in accordance with the Moroccan law.
Under Moroccan law the king is considered “inviolable.” But the Moroccan constitution also guarantees (Article 25) “freedom of thought, opinion and expression in all its forms.”
The incriminating four-minute clip was posted in early January, during a week of social unrest and violent clashes between demonstrators and anti-riot police in the unemployement-stricken city of Taza.
In the video, Abdelsamad Haydour is seen talking to a group of people in the street, harshly criticizing the king and his entourage (video posted by zawali66):
The ruling comes less than a week after an 18-year-old appeared before a court in the capital Rabat accused of committing a crime of lèse-majesté by posting pictures and videos on Facebook mocking king Mohammed VI.
The news of the sentence against Mr. Haydour provoked some strong reactions on social networks.
Rasta Basta tweets:
@Basta: just a thought: in #Morocco defaming God does not lead to prison, defaming the king does, for 3 yrs; any conclusions? #HR #ArabSpring
Samia Errazzouki tweets:
@Charquaouia: I've lost count of the people jailed in Morocco since the new constitution and elections for merely expressing themselves with words.
@Burrito_SB: How many people should get arrested for simply expressing their opinion do we need to realize that nothing has changed in #morocco #maroc
Despite sustained growth, Morocco still suffers from high unemployment, especially prevalent among the youngest with more than a quarter of graduates unable to find a job.
Many Moroccan cities witness daily demonstrations over unemployment often led by university graduates who wish to integrate the public sector. Last month four of these protesters set themselves on fire in the capital Rabat. One of them lost his life.
But it is in the city of Taza where the social tension reached its peak. The city witnessed several weeks of violent clashes between demonstrators and anti-riot police, culminating on February 1st when the police proceeded to a house-to-house search, arresting several suspected rioters.
On Tuesday, 17 individuals from Taza were sentenced to up to 8 months in jail for “vandalism and destruction of public property,” the local media reported.