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France gives Algerian footballer suspended prison sentence and massive fine for social media post

January 4, 2024 at 4:20 pm

Nice’s Algerian defender Youcef Atal arrives at Nice courthouse, southern France, for his trial for incitement to hatred, on December 18, 2023. [Photo by VALERY HACHE/AFP via Getty Images]

Algerian footballer Youcef Atal has received an eight-month suspended prison sentence and been fined €45,000 for sharing content on social media related to Israel’s bombardment of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. According to the criminal court in Nice on Wednesday, the 27-year-old player shared a video deemed potentially provocative and promoting hatred based on religion.

“Sharing a video means being party to its message and lending it visibility,” prosecutor Meggi Choutia claimed in court. “There is no talk of peace at any moment in these 35 seconds.”

Following his discussion on the children killed by Israel’s attacks against Gaza in the video, the person who made and posted the film, Mahmoud Al-Hasanat, allegedly made an anti-Jewish comment and invoked God to “guide the hand” of Palestinians in Gaza resisting Israel’s occupation. Atal was with the Algerian national team in his home country when he shared the video. He lives in France and plays for Ligue 1 team Nice FC.

READ: Israel dropped 65,000 tonnes of bombs on Gaza in 89 days

According to Al-Jazeera, the footballer deleted the video the following day after officials at the club warned him that it was likely to attract controversy. He apologised and asserted that he would “never support a message of hate” and that he condemns violence “no matter where in the world.” Atal repeated his apology at the court hearing last month, explaining that he intended to convey a “message of peace” and had not watched the entire 35-second video before sharing it.

Nice FC suspended Atal “until further notice,” and he received a seven-match ban from the French football authorities. The ban has now expired.

Israel has dropped more than 65,000 tonnes of bombs on Gaza in the three months. Since the beginning of the occupation state’s genocide against the Palestinians in Gaza, 85 per cent of the population has been displaced, some numerous times.

According to the health ministry in Gaza, 22,313 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s bombing campaign, most of them children and women, and a further 57,296 have been wounded.

READ: UK: Boris Johnson accused of obstructing investigations into war crimes in Gaza