French prosecutors demand imprisonment of Algerian Youcef Atal for his solidarity with Gaza

The French Public Prosecution demanded the imprisonment of Algerian football player Youcef Atal for a 10-month-suspended sentence, and a fine of 45,000 euros, on charges of incitement to violence and hatred, due to his solidarity with Palestine.

Youcef Atal will be obliged to publish the penalty imposed on him on his personal Instagram account for a full month, pending the issuance of the final ruling.

Media outlets reported that Youcef Atal, the Nice player, appeared before the French court in Nice, after the Public Prosecution had charged him with “terrorism and public incitement to hatred or violence,” before the “terrorism” charge was dropped and he was only accused of “spreading hatred on racial grounds.”

This comes against the backdrop of the Algerian player publishing on his Instagram account a video clip of a Palestinian imam calling for a “black day for the Jews,” as part of his solidarity with the Gaza Strip, which cost him the penalty of being banned from playing for 7 matches with his team, Nice, by the French Football League.

During his interrogation before a Nice court judge, on December 18, Youcef Atal denied that he had political tendencies, as he said, according to what was reported by RMC Radio: “I have no connection to a political party. I am just a football player. In fact, when I published the video, I did not see its owner or the party he was leaning toward. It was an oversight on my part.”

He added: “I re-posted the video because I saw that it was a message of peace, given the conditions that existed at that time. Unfortunately, I did not watch the video until the end, and I regret that.”

The right-back of the Algerian national team continued to make his statement: “I did not expect that that video would cause all this noise. I thought it was normal until the sports director at Nice called me and I immediately deleted the video. After that, I amended the mistake I had made with a letter of apology and, in all honesty, I did not mean to hurt someone.”

He concluded about his photo with the Palestinian flag: “It is a photo with the Algerian national team in solidarity with Palestine. I am not anti-Semitic, and I am not against anyone. I regret not watching the video until the end. I am just a football player who stands against hatred. We already played in Israel and I played without any problem”.

Last October, French parliamentarian Valérie Pouilly called for the withdrawal of French citizenship from the international football player of Algerian origins, Karim Benzema, after he expressed his sympathy for the residents of the Palestinian city of Gaza, which has been subjected to continuous Israeli bombing for 80 days, claiming the lives of 22 thousand Palestinians, according to the Ministry of Health in Gaza.

The Interregional Center for Strategic Analyzes notes that many opinions are surprised by the French measures towards citizens who wish to declare their support for Palestine, including Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin’s decision to ban “pro-Palestinian demonstrations,” given that this is considered a type of restriction of freedom of expression in the country. The country of Voltaire, to whom this quote is attributed: “I do not agree with what you say, but I will fight to the death that you have the right to say it.”

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