Morocco man gets three years jail for 'criticising the king' in Israel normalisation posts

Morocco man gets three years jail for 'criticising the king' in Israel normalisation posts
Said Boukioud's lawyer said he never intended to offend the king but draw attention to Morocco's unpopular normalisation of ties with Israel.
3 min read
28 November, 2023
The sentence comes amid growing calls from Moroccan protesters to cut ties with Israel

A Moroccan man has been sentenced to three years in prison by an appeals court for insulting King Mohammed VI.

Said Boukioud, 48, was initially sentenced in August to five years in jail for a series of Facebook posts from three years ago when he criticised the kingdom's normalisation of ties with Israel.

A Casablanca court on Monday reduced the sentence to three years, according to his lawyer El Hassan Essouni who vowed to challenge the decision.

"The ruling was very excessive," the lawyer told reporters, saying they would petition Morocco's highest court for an appeal.

The case goes back to December 2020 when Boukioud, who was based in Qatar at the time, criticised Rabat's normalisation with Israel that year on his personal Facebook page.

His lawyer said Boukioud "deleted those posts and closed his Facebook account when he learned that there was a case against him" in Morocco. He was arrested on his return to Casablanca this July.

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The defence said Boukioud "never had" any intention to offend the king but "wanted to draw attention to the fact that normalisation was not good for Moroccans, nor for the Palestinian cause, nor for anyone".

Morocco and Israel normalised diplomatic relations in December 2020 as part of the US-backed Abraham Accords. The US recognised Moroccan sovereignty over the disputed Western Sahara region soon after.

Foreign affairs are the prerogative of the monarch, according to the Moroccan constitution.

Boukioud was prosecuted under the Moroccan Penal Code which punishes "anyone who insults the Islamic religion or the monarchy or incites against territorial integrity". Breaking this law publicly can result in two to five years in jail.

The Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH) said in a report in August that it had documented "dozens of cases of legal proceedings" against internet users over the past two years.

The sentence comes amid growing calls from Moroccan activists and opposition parties to cut ties with Israel.

Morocco has witnessed huge protests since Israel began its indiscriminate bombardment of Gaza on 7 October.

الآن .. وقفة مساندة لمعتقل الرأي سعيد بوكيوض بالتزامن مع جلسة محاكمته استئنافيا بمحكمة الاستئناف بالبيضاء.
بوكيوض مواطن مغربي محكوم ابتدائيا تعسفيا بخمس سنوات من أجل التعبير عن رأيه الرافض لتطبيع النظام المغربي مع الكيان الصهي.وني الإرهابي.

— hassan bennajeh - حسن بناجح (@h_bennajeh) November 20, 2023

On Monday, dozens of activists gathered in front of the appeal court to protest at Boukioud's trial, waving  Palestinian flags and chanting against the normalisation.

"We wished that this appeal trial would be a chance for the wise people in the country to correct the first sentence but we were disappointed," Abou Baker Al-Wounkhari, a member of the Moroccan Front Against Normalisation told TNA after the appeal sentence was announced.

"Boukioud is a Moroccan citizen who expressed his opinion. It's an opinion that most Moroccans have also expressed - that we are against the normalisation."

A day earlier, tens of thousands of Moroccans took to the streets in Casablanca in the country's latest pro-Palestinian rally, demanding a permanent ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and the suspension of Moroccan-Israeli ties.

Since the start of the war on Gaza, the Moroccan government has refrained from commenting on the status of its ties with Israel.