Morocco - Moroccan bloggers worried after "disproportionate" three-year jail term for Internet user who created spoof Facebook profile

    MONTREAL, Feb. 26 /CNW Telbec/ - Reporters Without Borders voiced concern
today about the three-year prison sentence which a Casablanca court imposed on
27-year-old Internet user Fouad Mourtada on 22 February for "usurping the
identity" of King Mohammed's brother, Prince Moulay Rachid, by creating a
"false profile" in his name on the social-networking website Facebook.
    "This is the first time a Moroccan has been convicted for an online
offence and Mourtada was the victim of a summary trial," the press freedom
organisation said. "We are worried about the effect on freedom of expression
on the Moroccan Internet as all of the country's bloggers will feel targeted.
This disproportionate sentence has shocked the Moroccan blogger community,
which is one of the biggest in the region. A popular and well respected
blogger already decided to stop blogging out of fear for his safety after what
happened to Fuad Mourtada."
    Plain-clothes police arrested Mourtada at his home on 5 February and held
him incommunicado for 36 hours before transferring him to Casablanca's Oukacha
prison the next day.
    Reporters Without Borders wonders how the police identified Mourtada.
"Did the police get his computer's IP address? And if so, how? We have asked
the ISP, Maroc Telecom, in which the French company Vivendi is a shareholder,
to provide us with the relevant information."
    When he saw his family on 12 February, he told them: "I did indeed create
this account on 15 January. It remained online for several days until someone
closed it down. There are so many celebrity profiles on Facebook. I never
thought that by creating a profile of His Royal Highness Prince Moulay Rachid
that I was doing him any harm. Also, I did not send anyone a message from this
account. It was just a joke (...) I am not a criminal."
    With around 4 million Internet users, the Moroccan blogosphere is one of
the most active in all of the Maghreb.

For further information:

For further information: Katherine Borlongan, secretary general,
Reporters Without Borders, (514) 521-4111, Cell: (514) 258-4208, Fax: (514)

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