A Moroccan man was sentenced to five years in prison for criticizing the king on Facebook over the country’s normalization of ties with Israel.
Said Boukioud, 48, was jailed on Monday for posts denouncing the Abraham Accords “in a way that could be interpreted as criticism of the king,” the defendant’s lawyer said, adding that an appeal was filed, the Guardian reported.
Under the country’s constitution, foreign affairs are the prerogative of King Mohammed VI. Morocco and Israel normalized relations in December 2020 as part of the Trump administration-brokered deal.
The lawyer described the Casablanca court’s verdict as “harsh and incomprehensible,” and claimed his client did not intend to offend the king.
The posts were made at the end of 2020, when Boukioud was living and working in Qatar. He deleted them and closed his account after being indicted, the Guardian reported.
Boukioud was convicted under article 267-5 of the penal code, which stipulates a jail term of between six months and two years. The sentence can be increased to five years if the offense is committed publicly, including by electronic means.
In a speech on Saturday marking the anniversary of his accession to the throne in 1999, the king reiterated “Morocco’s unwavering stance in support of the just Palestinian cause and the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.”
Last month, Mohammed invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to visit the North African country, an invitation that came after Jerusalem recognized Moroccan sovereignty over the disputed Western Sahara region.
The king received a missive from Netanyahu pledging to share the updated position with “the United Nations, to regional and international organizations of which Israel is a member and to all countries with which Israel maintains diplomatic relations.”
Netanyahu also informed the king that his government is mulling opening a consulate in the Western Sahara coastal city of Dakhla.
In response, Morocco announced that it would raise the status of its Tel Aviv mission to that of an embassy
Israel has also normalized relations with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan under the auspices of the Abraham Accords.