Morocco: Facebook's fake prince could face five years in prison

On February 22, Fouad Mourtada was sentence to three years in prison and a fine of (10,000 dirhams) $1350.

Morocco: Facebook

Fouad Mourtada, a 26-year old IT engineer has been held under arrest in Casablanca since February 5th for “villainous practices linked to the alleged theft of the identity” of King Mohammed VI's younger brother, Prince Moulay Rachid, on the popular social networking website Facebook. Fouad appeared in court on Friday February 15th. The trial has been postponed until February 22.

According to a statement released by the Committee of Support for Fouad Mourtada, following the first visit to Fouad on February 12th at Oukacha jail in Casablanca, Fouad provided more information about the circumstances of the arrest and claimed he was “beaten, spat on and insulted”:

I was arrested on the morning of Tuesday by two individuals who embarked me on a vehicle then blindfolded my eyes with a black band. After about fifteen minutes, they changed vehicles, then took me along to some building to undergo an interrogation there. I was persecuted, beaten up, slapped, spat on and insulted. I was also slammed for hours with a tool on the head and the legs. This calvary lasted such a long time that I lost consciousness several times and also lost the notion of time. I was completely surprised to learn, when I was taken again to another location, that it was Wednesday.

In the same statement, Mourtada stressed that he created the Facebook account of Prince Moulay Rachid as a joke. It's not clear how the Moroccan police found out who was behind the account or whether there was any kind of collaboration between Facebook and the police.

I actually created this account on January 15, 2008. It remained online a few days before somebody closed it. There are so many profiles of celebrities on Facebook. I never thought that by creating a profile of his highness prince Moulay Rachid I was harming him in any way. I, as a matter of fact, did not send any message from that account to anyone. It was just a joke, a gag. I regret my gesture and beg my forgiveness from my whole family for the harm that I have caused them.

Fouad Mourtada could face five years in prison “for having done what thousands of people throughout the world do everyday: Create a profile of a celebrity or a star on Facebook,” his lawyer Ali Ammar said, adding: “This is a cultural problem. This is the first time that a Moroccan poses as a very important personality on the Internet (…) This is already a common practice in Europe and the United States.

There are on Facebook 41 Nicolas Sarkozy, 10 prince William of England, Many Jacques Chirac (former French president), Roger Federer, George Bush, Osama bin Laden” lamented Fouad's sister, Amina Mourtada, in the Facebook group “Help Fouad Mourtada” she created to campaign for his release. So far, 1636 members have joined the group and 1807 other have signed the Help Fouad petition.

Today, the Moroccan blogosphere is showing its solidarity with Fouad and his family. Many prominent Moroccan bloggers are on strike, such as Ibn Kafka, Larbi.org, Lionne d'Atlas, Fhamator, Ayoub, 7didane, Jihane, Eatbees, Laïla Lalami, Reda, Farid Taha. Many of them are displaying this text:

Today, Tuesday, February 19, is the fourteenth day of Fouad Mourtada's imprisonment. He committed the error, but not the crime, of creating a Facebook account in the name of Prince Moulay Rachid. This account contained no insults against the Prince nor was it the instrument of any swindling attempts. His name was immediately given wide publicity by the authorities, in breach of the presumption of innocence he's supposed to enjoy, and he alleges having been beaten and mishandled during his arrest. He initially had trouble finding a lawyer willing to defend him. The trial, due to begin on February 15, has been postponed to February 22, while his habeas corpus application has been rejected.

(…)

For this reason, this blog will be on strike on Tuesday, 19 February as a gesture of solidarity with Fouad Mourtada and the other prisoners of opinion currently jailed in Morocco.

11 comments

  • f***ing coutry, f***ing stupid king.

    Poor morocan people, they live like slaves under the tyrany of this royal family,

    Only a spill of blood will fre these people from the oppression of the king and his dogs

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  • [...] Fouad Mourtada, the 26-year old IT engineer who has been arrested on February 5th, 2008 and sentenced to three years in prison and a fine of $1350 for creating a fake Facebook profile of King Mohammed VI’s younger brother, Prince Moulay Rachid, has been released about an hour ago. According to a source close to Help Fouad campaign, Fouad got a full royal pardon and left the Oukacha Prison (Casablanca) at approximately 1:00pm and is on his way home. [...]

  • [...] Mr. Mourtada, a 26-year old IT engineer, was taken into custody on February 5th, 2008, and was questioned regarding a fake Facebook profile of King Mohammed VI’s younger brother, Prince Moulay Rachid, which he had created on January 15.  During his interrogation, Mr. Mourtada reports that he was beaten, spat on and insulted. [...]

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  • [...] that led to the arrest of a journalist, who wrote critically about the government. In February, Facebook provided the Moroccan government with information that led to the arrest of a 26 year old IT [...]

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