Algeria footballer Youcef Atal faces court over social media post on Gaza
France-based Algerian football player Youcef Atal is set to face a French court next January over posting a video of a preacher calling for "a black day for the Jews."
On 18 December, the 27-year-old player of OGC Nice appeared in front of a court for the first time since his suspension two months ago over "inciting hate" in a controversial post he shared with his 3.2 million followers on Instagram.
Five days after the unprecedented Hamas attacks on 7 October and the start of Israel's bombing of Gaza, Atal reposted on his Instagram account a 35-second video of preacher Mahmoud Al Hasanat. At the time, he was in Algeria with his national team.
"I thought there was a message of peace for the people who were suffering in this war," argued the 27-year-old Algerian international player at the Nice criminal court, assuring that he "shared this video without watching until the end".
In this video, the preacher first evokes the fate of the children of Gaza. Then, he calls on God to send "a dark day on the Jews".
"I am not anti-Semitic. I am neither against Jews nor against Christians; I have no hatred against anyone," he insisted, recalling that, unlike many athletes in the Arab world, he did not hesitate to play in Tel Aviv with his Nice team.
Despite Atal's arguments, the prosecution requested a ten-month suspended prison sentence and a 45,000 euro fine against the Nice player.
The judgment was reserved until 3 January.
Atal's lawyer admitted that the international football player committed an ethical "fault" but not a criminal one.
"He sent a message of support to the Palestinians in Gaza. For him, this is peace, and he is not the only one," said Antoine Vey, Atal's lawyer.
Several women welcomed Atal outside the court with "Algeria is with you" or "Long live Palestine" while the player avoided answering journalists' questions.
Since the start of the Gaza war, several North African players in Europe have faced wide criticism for showcasing solidarity with Gaza, with far-right groups demanding their suspension from the European leagues.