From the Sydney Morning Herald - Jailed for Facebook 'joke' at king's brother
Amnesty International said today it was "shocked" by a three-year jail term handed down by a Moroccan court to a man who registered a false internet Facebook profile as King Mohammed VI's brother.
The court in Casablanca sentenced 27-year-old computer engineer Fouad Mourtada yesterday and fined him 10,000 dinar ($A1400) for "the use of false information and usurping the identity of the prince".
"We are shocked by such a heavy verdict," said Benedicte Goderiaux, a member of an Amnesty group examining human rights issues in Morocco and Western Sahara who attended the trial.
"The sentence is disproportionate to the offence," she said.
Goderiaux also expressed "concern over the trial's fairness", saying that the prosecutor and the judge each reproached Mourtada repeatedly for having "undermined the sacred integrity of the realm as represented by the prince".
If that was the basis of the verdict, Amnesty would consider him "a prisoner of opinion", she added.
According to Goderiaux, the accused and his lawyers said Mourtada had signed his statement under duress during interrogation.
"In these circumstances, this document cannot be entered into a fair trial," she stated.
The prosecutor had demanded Mourtada's punishment serve as an "example", while the defence argued its client was just having fun and that similar cases in the United States, Canada, and Europe never went to trial.
"On Facebook, you find sites (for) Sarkozy, Bush and Blair as well as sports stars and film stars without certifying that they are real," his lawyer Ali Ammar said.
Asked why he had set up a Facebook profile under the name of Prince Moulay Rachid, the king's younger brother, Mourtada had replied: "I admire him, I like him a lot and I have never caused him any wrong, it was just a joke. I am innocent."