A Moroccan activist, Rabie Al Ablaq, has been sentenced to four years in prison for “offending” King Mohammed VI on social networks.
“The court of the first instance in Al Hoceima (north) sentenced Rabie Al Ablaq to four years in prison for offending the king electronically,” his lawyer Abdelmajid Azaryah told AFP.
In addition to the sentence, which was declared on Monday, the 35-year-old activist and citizen journalist is expected to pay a fine of 20,000 dirhams (1,900 euros)
His lawyer has announced his intention to appeal.
Mr Al Ablaq appeared free before the court of Al Hoceima, where his trial had opened on 11 April.
The accused was prosecuted for publishing “videos criticising social disparities and corruption”, according to his lawyer. “I was shocked by the verdict because he (Mr Al Ablaq) was only expressing his opinion. I feel that he did not undermine the (royal) institution.”
-Freedom of expression–
According to Human Right Watch (HRW), the indictment stemmed from two videos, posted on Facebook and YouTube in September and November, in which Mr Al Ablaq “addressed the king in a colloquial tone and highlighted the contrast between his personal wealth and the widespread poverty in Morocco.”
“Penalising peaceful criticism of those in power is a clear violation of the right to freedom of expression,” the human rights NGO said in a recent statement, calling for the prosecution of the activist to be dropped.
In 2018, Rabie Al Ablaq was imprisoned and then sentenced to five years in prison for his participation in the protest movement that agitated the Moroccan region of Rif (north) in 2016-2017 before being pardoned by the king in 2020.
Another Moroccan human rights activist, Saida El Alami, 48, who regularly posted publications critical of the authorities on social networks, was arrested on 23 March and is being prosecuted for “insulting public officials in the exercise of their duties”.
The verdict is expected on Friday.