Moroccan bloggers worried after “disproportionate” three-year jail term for Internet user who created spoof Facebook profile

Moroccan bloggers worried after “disproportionate” three-year jail term for Internet user who created spoof Facebook profile

Reporters Without Borders voiced concern today about the
three-year prison sentence which a Casablanca court imposed on
27-year-old Internet user Fouad Mourtada on 22 February for “usurping
the identity” of King Mohammed’s brother, Prince Moulay Rachid, by
creating a “false profile” in his name on the social-networking website
Facebook.


“This is the first time a Moroccan has been convicted for an
online offence and Mourtada was the victim of a summary trial,” the
press freedom organisation said. “We are worried about the effect on
freedom of expression on the Moroccan Internet as all of the country’s
bloggers will feel targeted. This disproportionate sentence has shocked
the Moroccan blogger community, which is one of the biggest in the
region. A popular and well respected blogger already decided to stop
blogging out of fear for his safety after what happened to Fuad
Mourtada.”

Plain-clothes police arrested Mourtada at his home on
5 February and held him incommunicado for 36 hours before transferring
him to Casablanca’s Oukacha prison the next day.

Reporters
Without Borders wonders how the police identified Mourtada. “Did the
police get his computer’s IP address? And if so, how? We have asked the
ISP, Maroc Telecom, in which the French company Vivendi is a
shareholder, to provide us with the relevant information.”

When
he saw his family on 12 February, he told them: “I did indeed create
this account on 15 January. It remained online for several days until
someone closed it down. There are so many celebrity profiles on
Facebook. I never thought that by creating a profile of His Royal
Highness Prince Moulay Rachid that I was doing him any harm. Also, I
did not send anyone a message from this account. It was just a joke
(…) I am not a criminal.”

With around 4 million Internet users, the Moroccan blogosphere is one of the most active in all of the Maghreb.

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