Jailed for liking FC Barcelona more than the king
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For replacing "God, The Nation, The King" with "God, The Nation, Barcelona" on the blackboard at school, a Moroccan football fan was condemned to 18 months in prison. His father tells us that after calling for appeal, his has been released on bail, but he faces a retrial on November 5. Read more...
Yassine Belassal (right) and his father, Mohamed Belassal.
For replacing "God, The Nation, The King" with "God, The Nation, Barcelona" on the blackboard at school, a Moroccan football fan was condemned to 18 months in prison. His father tells us that after calling for an appeal, his son has now been released on bail but faces retrial on November 5.
Yassine Belassal risked paying a high price for his passion for FC Barcelona. The 18-year-old student thought it would be funny to rub out the end of the country's national slogan "Allah, Al Watan, Al Malik", (God, The Nation, The King) and replace it with "Barca" (God, The Nation, Barcelona); his favourite football club. His teacher didn't find it quite so funny. Reported and then arrested, Yassine was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment in a closed jail for insulting the king. On Wednesday, his father, Mohamed Belassal, told us that his son had managed to win the right to appeal and was to be released on bail until November 5. Until then, human rights groups, the Moroccan blogosphere, and even FC Barcelona, are campaigning for his acquittal.
"This affair […] illustrates perfectly the lack of respect of fundamental liberties in Morocco"
Youssef Jebri is a Moroccan author who has written several books about the country. He lives in Paris.
The affair of Yassine Belassal is symbolic. It illustrates perfectly the lack of respect of fundamental liberties in Morocco. The rushed condemnation of Yassine was iniquitous and grotesque. To be thrown in prison in 2008 for such a pathetic reason, after being harassed and condemned, it's scandalous. It proves that we live in a regime where a culture of worship and whistle-blowing is encouraged. The king might have changed but the regime and the constitution stay the same. The slogan that Yassine altered touches on three supreme taboos in Morocco: god, patriotism and monarchy... If you question any of these three things you'll end up in prison. I do hope this affair will have a happy ending, because Yassine should be in school, not in prison."
"I'm not relieved yet"
Mohamed Belassal is Yassine's father. They live in Aït Ourir, near Marrakech.
Although he's been released, I'm not relieved yet because the final judgement will come on the 5th. Our lawyer has brought up several incoherencies with the case and also the behaviour of the police, who beat my son at the police station after he was arrested. Yassine is a good lad and he needs to prepare for his exams. His future is in the hands of god. I am optimistic because he's done nothing wrong and because the crowds of support at this morning's tribunal reassured me about the state of justice in my country."