Bouda Ghassan had written a Facebook post allegedly defending the burning of a Moroccan flag at a protest in France.
Rabat – The Court of First Instance in Khenifra, central Morocco, has sentenced Abdelali Bamad, known as Bouda Ghassan, to two years in prison for insulting the emblems of the Kingdom of Morocco.
Bouda Ghassan had written a Facebook post allegedly defending the burning of a Moroccan flag at a protest in France. Prosecutors also accused Bouda Ghassan of affirming his opinion on the flag burning in further comments on the Facebook post.
The Moroccan teacher was arrested and transferred to the prosecutor on December 23. At Bouda Ghassan’s request, the trial was postponed until Thursday, January 9, to allow his lawyers time to coordinate and prepare his defense.
In addition to the two-year prison sentence, Bouda Ghassan is facing a fine of MAD 10,000 ($1,041).
Moroccan outlet Al3omk reported large numbers of protesters attended the trial. Police also gathered outside the court, and the court session continued into the evening.
The flag burning Bouda Ghassan defended occurred at a protest in Paris to commemorate three years after the death of Mohcine Fikri, a fishmonger in Morocco’s northern Rif region. Fikri died in a garbage truck while attempting to retrieve fish police had confiscated from him. When the truck’s crushing mechanism was activated, killing Fikri, it ignited months of protests in the Rif region, known as Hirak Rif.
Morocco’s Government Spokesperson Hassan Abyaba spoke on Thursday about recent prosecutions related to speech. “Any citizen who commits a felony will be punished by the law,” he said at the regular government press conference.
The two-week-old National Committee for the Liberation of Omar Radi and of All Prisoners of Conscience and for Freedom of Expression also hosted a press conference on Thursday. According to the committee, such arrests and prosecutions in Morocco are “a way of suffocating freedom of expression by reacting with an iron fist against the bearers of opinions opposed to state policy, even when it generates poverty and precariousness.”
The committee is campaigning for journalist Omar Radi, who is awaiting prosecution for a tweet he wrote that criticized prison sentences he deemed too harsh.
Protesters gathered in Rabat Thursday evening as the committee called for a day of solidarity with prisoners of conscience.
The last several months have seen arrests and prosecutions of multiple people, including rappers, teenagers, and journalists, for speech on social media deemed insulting to Morocco’s national symbols and territorial integrity.