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FAKE PRINCE ON FACEBOOK PARDONED

Fouad Mourtada, who made international headlines last month for getting jail time for setting up a Facebook account in the name of a Moroccan prince, has been freed, report Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the anti-censorship network of bloggers Global Voices Online.

According to RSF, Mourtada received a royal pardon for Eid al-Mawlid an-Nabawi, the festival of the birth of the Prophet Mohammed, on 18 March, after 43 days in prison. He had been serving a three-year jail sentence 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 a great relief," says RSF. "Mourtada will be able to spend this holiday with his family after 43 days in prison. Nonetheless, we regret that his release is the result of a royal pardon rather than a fair verdict and sentence. Moroccan bloggers will not be able to forget his imprisonment when they compose their blog entries."

Mourtada's conviction on 22 February had received a great deal of national and international coverage, especially among Moroccan bloggers, who campaigned vigorously for his release. Protest rallies were organised worldwide. A website created by Fouad's family attracted 71,000 visitors in less than three weeks, and a petition demanding his release was signed by more than 7,000 people.

Mourtada was arrested at his home on 5 February and allegedly beaten while in police custody.

Visit these links:
- RSF: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=25900
- Help Fouad: http://www.helpfouad.com/
- Menassat.com: http://tinyurl.com/33hcnl
(25 March 2008)

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