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Schoolboy jailed for failing to respect the king

(ANHRI/IFEX) - The following is a 25 October 2008 ANHRI press release:

Moroccan schoolboy jailed for lack of respect for the king, sentenced for writing "God, my homeland and Barça"

Cairo, 25 October, 2008

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) strongly condemns the prison sentence handed down by the Moroccan courts in Marrakesh to an eighteen-year-old school boy, Yassine Bellassal, for writing the motto "God, my homeland and Barça" on the blackboard. This was a corruption of the motto "God, my homeland and the King", which is the national motto of Morocco, and showed Yassine's enthusiasm for the Spanish football team of that name.

The headmaster of Aiit Orir School came into the classroom while Yassine was writing on the board and immediately rushed to report him to the police, instead of discussing the matter with the boy himself. The police referred him to the public prosecutor, who immediately took the matter to court, without benefit of a lawyer and without informing his family. The court sentenced him to prison for eighteen months, charging him with "lacking respect due to the king."

ANHRI asks, "Has this boy committed a crime? Should he be sent to jail for such behavior? When did school headmasters turn into informers? The label of criminal which they have attached to this pupil more appropriately fits the behavior of those who have sent him to jail. They have forgotten the value of dialogue and respect for freedom of expression. Yassine Bellassal should be released immediately and without delay."

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