MOROCCO

Moroccans gang together for the release of the "Facebook prisoner"

Fouad Mourtada got three years in a maximum security prison for creating a fake Facebook profile page for a member of the Moroccan royal family. Now, web users all over the world are ganging together to get Fouad out of prison. Web-users show support for the Facebook prisoner online

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Fouad Mourtada got three years in a maximum security prison for creating a fake Facebook profile page for a member of the Moroccan royal family. Now, web-users all over the world are ganging together to get Fouad out of prison.

The 26-year-old Moroccan IT engineer created a profile in the name of Prince Moulay Rachid (the brother of Mohamed VI, king of Morocco). The offence led to his sudden street arrest on Feb 5. After weeks in custody, where his family says he was tortured, he went to trial in Casablanca. He explained that he created the fake profile in admiration for the prince, and with no malicious intentions. However, the court wanted to "make an example" of Mourtada, and they condemned him, at the end of February, to three years in a maximum security prison for the "usurpation of identity".

Since Mourtada was put behind bars outrage among the Moroccan public and on the international blogosphere has only escalated. Young people in particular cannot understand why a harmless joke led to such a severe sentence. Last Saturday demonstrators in Morocco and across Europe marched to demand the release of the Facebook prisoner.

"Support for Fouad is growing every day"

Amina, Fouad Mourtada's sister:

International support for Fouad is growing every day. Not only is his family behind him; my brother has support all over the world. Morocco is the first country to convict someone for creating a fake profile on Facebook. The world is watching us now, and unjust decisions will only give the country a bad reputation. Until now we were considered to be more advanced in democracy than our neighbours. Locking up Fouad is an outrageous injustice. My brother is a young IT engineer who decided to stay here to serve his country when he had the opportunity to go abroad. Putting him in prison is not only a trauma to his parents and his family; it's much more than that. It will break the ambitions and the dreams of many young Moroccans who identify with him; it will shake their trust and confidence in the country, in justice and in the transition to democracy. All the efforts we've made to gain ground for freedom of expression and human rights will be wasted. It will be a negative sign for citizens, tourists and investors who believe in this country. We'd like to think that such a gross injustice simply can't happen in Morocco in the 21st century. We hope that our country won't disappoint all those following and supporting Fouad.

"This event has created a great sense of unease in Morocco"

Mohamed Zainabi, our observer in Morocco, who took part in the demonstration to support Fouad in Rabat:

Everybody feels for Fouad Mourtada's case. On Saturday there were demonstrations in several countries, and of course the most symbolic was in Rabat, Morocco's capital. The protest took place in front of the Mohammedia School of Engineering where Fouad studied. Many fellow engineers came to show their support. They weren't the only ones. There were also bloggers, Facebook members, general web users and activists from the Moroccan association of human rights, from Casablanca and outside. Everyone was protesting against the injustice inflicted on Fouad. Everyone pleaded for his release. The general view was that a three year maximum security prison sentence and a fine of 10.000 MAD [€900] for a first offence is a huge price to pay for creating a fake royal Facebook account. "We're all in risk of Fouard's fate," one young engineer worried, hoping for the prisoner's immediate release. He was certain that this a great sense of unease in Morocco has been created by the event.

Support demonstration in Rabat, Montreal and Paris

Posted by "DemocracyProjects", 3 March 2008.

 

Messages of support posted on Flickr:

Posted by "Houdac" in Casablanca, Morocco, 2 March 08

 

Posted by "Miriam" in Marrakesh, Morocco, 26 Feb. 08

Flickr page